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Officials Didn’t Labor Hard on Fairly Cool, Safe Holiday : ‘Mellow,’ ‘Valium Time,’ Say Those Who Keep the Peace

Times Staff Writers

Labor Day was both safer and cooler than expected in Southern California.

Temperatures began to dip in response to an invasion of moist marine air, the California Highway Patrol said fewer people died in traffic accidents, and beach crowds--while enormous by comparison with an average Monday--were almost moderate by holiday standards.

“It’s insane, it’s cuckoo, it’s Valium time,” said Los Angeles County beaches dispatcher Tom Overmire during a brief early-morning break. “We have 475,000 oily bodies anointing themselves in the sun--and 275,000 of them tried to drink their way through six-packs for breakfast.”

Only a Million or So

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Nonetheless, by late afternoon lifeguards estimated that only a million or so people had spent a part of the day at beaches from Zuma to San Clemente, despite surf that was running a pleasant 2 to 4 feet.

An estimated 100,000 people jammed the sands in Newport Beach, where they found the waves warmer than the air. Marine Safety Lt. Ron Johnson said Monday’s 74 degrees was beaten out by the 75-degree water temperature.

Riptides caused by a south swell at Newport and Huntington beaches kept lifeguards busy with a larger-than-usual number of rescues, and an unidentified man suffered a serious neck injury while body surfing at Huntington Beach State Park early Monday, authorities said.

Drinking, Traffic Arrests

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Huntington Beach police were kept busy with numerous alcohol-related arrests and minor traffic accidents of the fender-bender variety.

But crowds were generally well-behaved, authorities said. “Actually, it’s been a real mellow crowd today,” said Richard Rozzelle, lifeguard supervisor at Huntington Beach State Park, where temperatures soared to a high of 84. “It’s so hot, everyone is tired out.”

Despite the warm beach weather, paramedics said cases of heatstroke and dangerous sunburn were fewer than expected.

By 6 a.m. Monday, the CHP had counted only 34 holiday traffic fatalities in California--down considerably from the 51 recorded during the first two days of the Labor Day weekend last year--of which 8 were in the Los Angeles area, down 3 from the similar period last year.

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As of 6 p.m. Monday, there were no traffic deaths reported on Orange County freeways, but Brea police were investigating a fatal accident involving a 26-year-old bicyclist, who was struck by an automobile Friday evening.

Michael Siciliano Jr. of Yorba Linda died Saturday morning at UCI Medical Center in Orange, a coroner’s spokesman said. Siciliano, who was wearing stereo headphones, was struck at 6:08 p.m. Friday as he pedaled westbound on Yorba Linda Boulevard near Eureka Avenue. The driver of the car was not cited or held, but police said an investigation was continuing.

A 29-year-old Brea woman remained in “extremely critical condition” at Western Medical Center in Santa Ana late Monday after being thrown from her car on the Santa Ana Freeway in Irvine early Sunday, authorities said.

CHP officials said Melissa Inabinette, who was driving alone, struck the center divider near Culver Drive in Irvine, then veered across three lanes of traffic and was ejected when her car rolled over several times about 4 a.m. Sunday.

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Drunk driving arrests also seemed to be down from previous years. CHP spokesman Monty Kiefer said his agency had arrested 489 people for driving while intoxicated in the Los Angeles area--down from the 550 arrested during the first two-thirds of the long weekend last year. There were 2,097 such arrests statewide, a decline from 2,226 in 1984.

CHP officials in Santa Ana said 107 people were arrested on suspicion of drunk driving on freeways in the Orange County-Long Beach area as of early Monday.

Temperatures ranged into the mid-80s Monday, reaching 86 degrees in El Toro, 85 in San Juan Capistrano and 83 in Santa Ana. The forecast called for two or three degrees of cooling today.


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