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Family Maintains Hospital Vigil for Teen-Ager

Times Staff Writer

Ever since a family friend delivered the tragic news late Thursday night, Ignacio and Graciela Padilla of Placentia have been agonizing in a hospital waiting room, praying for their critically injured teen-age son.

Ramiro Padilla, 14, remains in a coma with a skull fracture suffered when a motorist struck him as he rode his bicycle over an unlit freeway overpass near his home. Police said the driver never stopped. Ramiro, known as “Romeo” by his friends and family, was rushed to UCI Medical Center in Orange.

Dennis Lyle Christensen, 42, of Yorba Linda was arrested a short time later when he called police to report that his car had been stolen, police said. He was held at Anaheim City Jail on $10,000 bail. Department of Motor Vehicles records show that Christensen, a car salesman, was driving with a suspended license for drunk driving and that he had been cited for reckless driving in 1984 and for drunk driving involving a traffic collision in 1987.

A friend of Ramiro’s had happened by the accident Thursday on Placentia Avenue in Anaheim and saw her friend on the ground, the family said. She raced to his family’s small stucco home on Tafoya Street to tell them.

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His parents, who emigrated from Mexico when Ramiro was 1, have maintained a day-and-night vigil outside the pediatrics intensive-care ward, where their son is receiving oxygen to help restore consciousness.

They say the Rosary, accompanied by a procession of other friends and family members. By Saturday afternoon, they had left only twice, to return home for baths and clean clothes.

The parents say they are waiting to learn the extent of damage to Ramiro’s brain. If he shows no signs of improvement after 72 hours, doctors have told them, brain surgery may be necessary.

“I am very nervous,” said Ramiro’s father, 47, a forklift driver for a soft-drink bottling company. “When I found out how seriously he was hurt, I got so nervous my wife had to drive” to the hospital.

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“Right now, we are all very scared,” added his mother, Graciela, 41.

Ramiro is “a happy kid” who enjoys cartoon drawing and sports, his father said. A ninth-grader at Valencia High School, Ramiro tried out this year for the football team, but was sidelined for the season after suffering a dislocated shoulder in practice, his family said. He was playing defensive tackle.

Ramiro’s mother remembers only that her son left home about 6 p.m. Thursday, saying he was going to a friend’s house for a while. He pedaled away on his brother Leonel’s bicycle, she said.

Ramiro apparently was returning home when the accident happened, family members said. A friend who was riding his bicycle with Ramiro was not hurt. The accident occurred on a freeway overpass that local residents say is hazardous for bicycle riding because it is unlit.

“I am not angry about what happened because it was an accident,” Ramiro’s father said, “but I do not know yet whose fault it was. I am really angry that the driver did not stop to help.”

Carla Chacon, 19, a cousin of Ramiro’s who has stayed at the hospital, said he is not responding to nurses’ instructions to open his eyes or move his hands.

“We are still waiting for him to open his eyes,” Chacon said.


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