An off-duty Los Angeles police detective was killed Friday afternoon when his pickup collided with a cement truck in Beverly Hills on the same street where a fellow officer died in a similar crash two months ago.
Cmdr. Andrew Smith said the 25-year
Investigators suspect that the cement truck was southbound on Loma Vista, went out of control and crossed the double yellow line before slamming into the officer's vehicle. The truck driver was hospitalized in critical condition.
"I was stunned and in disbelief when I got the call and was told of the location," said Police Chief Charlie Beck, who described the officer as a family man and well-respected detective. His name was not immediately released.
"It is just too horrific for words," the chief said.
Beck noted that Friday's crash occurred only 25 yards from where a dump truck struck an LAPD patrol car March 7, killing Officer Nicholas Lee and injuring his partner. As Beck spoke to the media, the skid marks from the previous accident were still visible.
"The city is still reeling from the recent death of three on-duty LAPD officers, and my heart aches at the death of yet another of our officers," said Los Angeles Mayor
In addition to Lee and the detective killed Friday, motorcycle Officer Christopher Cortijo, a 26-year veteran of the department, was fatally injured in Sun Valley last month when he was hit at a red light by a woman suspected of driving under the influence of cocaine.
Officer Roberto Sanchez was killed and another officer injured May 3 when their patrol car was hit by a sport utility vehicle in Harbor City. The driver of the SUV has been charged with murder. Funeral services for Sanchez are scheduled for Wednesday.
The cause of Friday's crash is under investigation, and Loma Vista was closed between Doheny Road and Drury Lane.
Loma Vista has two lanes lined with trees and large gated mansions, many built mid-century and undergoing renovation. Signs warn truck drivers about the steep grade and to obey the speed limit. A runaway truck ramp is available in case of an emergency.
At the scene Friday, twisted metal and debris were strewn on the ground. The cement truck was broken apart, and its rear wheels had come to rest against a tree.
The body of the officer was removed from his damaged pickup, placed on a gurney and covered with an American flag. As the gurney was pushed toward a coroner's van, two lines of police and firefighters saluted.
"We are devastated by the accident on Loma Vista and mourn with the family of the detective who died," said Beverly Hills Mayor Lili Bosse. "The roadway is currently closed and heavy vehicle deliveries to construction sites in Trousdale are being suspended."
Beverly Hills police Sgt. Max Subin said Friday's crash, taken together with the fatal incident in March, has prompted officials to increase traffic enforcement on Loma Vista and reevaluate the safety of the street, which is one of the city roads where heavy-duty vehicles are permitted to travel.
A 30-day moratorium on truck traffic has been imposed, and truck drivers will be required to weigh their vehicles before proceeding on Loma Vista.
Residents of the area said dump trucks and cement mixers frequently use the street because a number of homes are being renovated. At least three of the vehicles have gone out of control or been involved in traffic incidents in the last several months.
"It's bizarre," said Cheri Shankar, who lives on Loma Vista. "This cannot be a coincidence. I am really scared to drive on my street now. I'm going to go out of my way and come up Coldwater Canyon [Drive]. It's too much."
Driving up the hilly street is a strain on most cars, Shankar said, and "you have to ride your brakes" driving down. Eventually motorists hit a blind curve, she added, and if a truck is barreling down from the other direction, "there's no time to react."
Eric Kranzler, who lives on the 1000 block of Loma Vista, said an asphalt truck struck two parked cars in October and flipped over in front of his house. The vehicle dumped more than nine tons of hot asphalt onto his property, he said, and another car wound up in his shrubs after swerving to miss the truck.
"What's it going to take for the city of Beverly Hills to take strong action?" Kranzler asked. "This can't continue to happen. Are two fatalities not enough?"