A Bad Start to New Year: Crashes Kill 1, Leave 7 Hurt

Times Staff Writer

New Year's Eve passed relatively safely on the highways and in the neighborhoods of Orange County, but the first day of 1988 was a different story.

Drunk-driving accidents left one person dead and seven injured Friday, and fires forced at least three families from their homes.

At 7 a.m., a van driven by Luis Amezola, 22, ran off the westbound lane of Pacific Coast Highway between Warner and Golden West avenues in Huntington Beach, Police Lt. John Foster said. The van overturned, killing a passenger, Hector Manuel Barajas, 34.

Amezola, of Hawthorne was treated for injuries at the scene and later booked into the jail ward at UCI Medical Center on suspicion of felony drunk driving.

Just after 3 a.m. Friday, a car with three adults and a 6-week-old infant was struck by a vehicle running a red light in Westminster, according to police.

Police said the accident occurred when Russell Casey, 23, of Fullerton driving north on Golden West Avenue, ignored a red light at Garden Grove Boulevard. Casey's car collided with a second car that was making a turn on a green arrow. After the collision, Casey's car rolled over, Sgt. Philip Marshall said.

The infant and three adults in the second car were all injured and taken to Fountain Valley Regional Hospital and Medical Center, Marshall said. They are Jennifer Brining, 23, of San Juan Capistrano; Raymond Brining, 27, of Fountain Valley; Michael Wojoinski, 18, of Pine, Ariz., and the infant, Robert Brining. All were later released, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Casey, arrested on suspicion of felony drunk driving, was hospitalized with injuries. He is in fair condition. His passenger, Lynette Fuller, 20, of Fullerton was treated at a hospital and released.

Also Friday, two families were forced out of their condominiums in Buena Park when a fire damaged a four-unit structure in the 7000 block of Santa Inez Circle, Battalion Chief William Cleveland said.

Firefighters from Orange County, Anaheim and Buena Park fought the blaze, which caused $80,000 in damage to the structure and $30,000 to the contents, Cleveland said. One unit was destroyed and two had smoke and water damage. The cause of that fire isn't known.

The county chapter of the Red Cross is providing temporary housing and food to two families, said Ken Grant, a Red Cross spokesman.

The Red Cross is also providing temporary shelter for five people whose home in the 2700 block of West Aurora Street in Santa Ana was damaged by fire just before noon. Fire investigators did not know the cause of the blaze.

In Huntington Beach, two people were driven from an apartment in the 300 block of Utica Street at 5:30 a.m.

That fire was caused by an electric fireplace in the living room that had been left on high, said Dennis Kidd, a spokesman for the Huntington Beach Fire Department. Joseph Nelligan, 29, who was asleep on a couch, was awakened and rescued by a neighbor, who called firefighters. Denise Foley, 27, also escaped the fire, Kidd said. Damage to the building was estimated at $50,000.

Other residential fires were reported on Chevy Chase Drive in Anaheim, in the 1400 block of South Hickory Street and on Tustin Village Way in Santa Ana, and in the 1500 block of Camino del Sol in Fullerton.

Also, during a period beginning just before midnight Thursday and stretching through Friday morning, police around the county reported more than 75 alcohol-related traffic arrests.

At a sobriety checkpoint on Harbor Boulevard operated by Anaheim and Garden Grove police, 14 people were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol and 11 for having open containers of alcohol. In all, 264 drivers were stopped at the checkpoint, according Sgt. Ron Lovejoy, Anaheim traffic officer.

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