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26 Die in Road Crashes; 1,469 Arrested as Drunk Drivers

Times Staff Writer

Beatrice and Chester Green, a retired Burbank couple, always made a point of trying to avoid holiday traffic.

“My mother doesn’t like to travel on holidays,” their daughter, Cynthia Rasmussen, 29, of Reno, Nev., explained Sunday. “She would say, ‘Who likes to deal with all of the traffic?’ ”

But when the Greens were invited to spend the Fourth of July boating on Lake Havasu with their family, they couldn’t resist. They loaded up their 1986 Capri with picnic coolers and lawn chairs, and headed out late Friday evening, hoping to beat the weekend rush.

The decision had fatal consequences. The Greens, both in their late 60s, were killed in a head-on collision that claimed five lives early Saturday morning near Palm Springs.

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Since the four-day holiday weekend began at 6 p.m. Friday, 26 people have been killed in traffic accidents throughout the state, the California Highway Patrol said Sunday morning. For the same period last year, 30 deaths were reported, officers said.

More Arrests

Drunk driving arrests are up from last year with 1,469 people arrested by midday Sunday, compared to 1,413 at this time last year, the CHP said. This year’s Fourth of July weekend runs through Tuesday night.

CHP officials said the next available totals will be released this morning.

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“I just know what happens on holidays with increases in traffic flow and more drinking--people are going to get killed. And that’s a fact,” CHP Sgt. Jim Pitsor said.

But the Greens’ three children, and a dozen grandchildren, could take no comfort in statistics.

“We were all close,” said 27-year-old grandson Christopher Koch. “They were healthy people who didn’t deserve to die like they did.”

As family members sat around the Greens’ dining room table Sunday afternoon, they reminisced about happier occasions and tried to piece together the chain of events that led to the catastrophic collision.

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“We just can’t say enough good things,” said daughter Brenda Green, 46, of Burbank, fingering a dainty white doily that was to have been a gift from her mother. “My dad never raised his voice. My mother never came to my house without bringing me something--cookies or flowers.”

Beatrice and Chester Green were the third link in the family caravan heading out of town for the holiday, Brenda said.

The Greens’ son, Chester Green Jr., 43, of Burbank, his wife and their four children, led the pack in a Jeep that pulled the power

boat. A granddaughter and her boyfriend were driving behind them and the Greens brought up the rear.

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At about 1:40 a.m., a car driven by Salvatore Parise, 56, swerved across the center divider on California 62, and smacked into the boat trailer before hitting the Greens’ car head on, Brenda said.

Parise, of Montebello, his wife, Filomena, 52, and daughter Mary, 20, were killed instantly, San Bernardino County coroner’s officials said.

Beatrice Green also died at the scene, officials said. Chester Green, a retired General Motors employee, remained conscious after the crash, pinned to the car’s floorboard, daughter Brenda said. He died Saturday evening of internal injuries at Loma Linda University Medical Center.

No other members of the Green caravan were injured in the accident.

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The Greens were no strangers to the road, family members said. They often traveled to Reno to visit relatives, and recently took a cross-country trip to Massachusetts.

When they weren’t traveling, the Greens spent their days quietly around the house, family members said. They had one ritual--going out for lunch every day.

“They were always together,” Brenda said. “They are going to be very missed.”


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