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Police look for answers in death of grandmother who was fatally struck by casino tour bus

The Valiente family is uneasy.

It has been nearly two months since its matriarch, 85-year-old Encarnacion Valiente, was fatally run down near Koreatown by a tour bus filled with passengers returning from Morongo Casino.

After hitting the grandmother, the driver never stopped, instead continuing his journey and dropping off passengers nearly two miles away.

“We just want justice. Even if he is guilty or not, just come forward,” her daughter-in-law Mirna Valiente said Thursday. “It was life. It was [a] person who was killed.”

Encarnacion Valiente, her son, Hugo, his wife, Mirna, and the couple’s two young sons had spent the day of Jan. 6 together at their home on Serrano Avenue. Hugo, Mirna and the children decided to run a quick errand and stock up on school supplies, leaving the house about 5:15 p.m. The elder Valiente stayed home.

Mirna Valiente believes that’s when her mother-in-law probably stepped out for a walk, an activity she enjoyed.

Police believe the tour bus driver dropped off passengers at Western Avenue near Olympic Boulevard, then turned right and traveled two blocks before hitting Valiente.

She was crossing Olympic Boulevard at Serrano Avenue about 7:23 p.m. in a marked crosswalk when the tour bus struck her and continued on, said Los Angeles police investigator Juan Velasco.

Witnesses who saw the hit-and-run crash came to Valiente's aid and called police, he said.

She was taken to an area hospital in grave condition. Nearly two hours later, she was pronounced dead.

The driver dropped the remaining passengers at Alvarado Street and Olympic Boulevard, Velasco said.

Investigators want to speak with those passengers and witnesses who saw the fatal crash.

The white tour bus with black stripes on both sides had tinted windows. The word “Morongo” was displayed on the bus.

Morongo Casino officials have provided investigators with a few leads, which Velasco said he is pursuing. So far, none of the witnesses who have come forward have been able to provide a description of the driver or a license plate number, he said.

Video footage showing the bus as it travels through Koreatown contains too few details to help authorities.

About 100 tour buses coming and going to different casinos roam the area on any given day, so tracking down the bus involved in January’s fatal crash has been difficult, Velasco said.

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It is unclear whether the driver was aware that Valiente had been struck because it was raining heavily the night of the crash, he said. The driver may not have noticed the impact.

“You are not going to feel the effects of hitting a pedestrian versus hitting a brick wall,” Velasco said.

The Morongo Casino is served by independently owned tour coordinators and charter operators and does not own or operate its own tour buses, said spokesman Mike Fisher.

Encarnacion Valiente, a mother of two, came to the U.S. from her native Guatemala in the 1960s. She worked for more than 30 years as a housekeeper for a family in Beverly Hills.

After retiring, she lived with her son and his family, helping care for her grandsons, Kevin, 8, and Arnold, 12.

Her grandsons are now looking after her beloved dog, Nicolas, her daughter-in-law said.

Mirna Valiente said the dog has been a comfort to the boys.

“They believe her dog was a gift she left for them so they can always remember her,” she said.

veronica.rocha@latimes.com

For breaking news in California, follow @VeronicaRochaLA

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