Driver Killed in Seal Beach’s ‘Alley of Death’

Times Staff Writer

A 19-year-old college student was killed in Seal Beach early Sunday along a stretch of road that nearby residents say has become an “alley of death.”

Hondo L. Vasquez of Norwalk was westbound in his Jeep Cherokee on Lampson Avenue near Heather Street about 12:30 a.m. when he apparently lost control of the vehicle and hit two power poles, police said. The Jeep flipped, ejecting Vasquez. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

It was the third major accident and the second traffic fatality on Lampson between Heather and Candleberry Avenue since Aug. 23, and Seal Beach City Councilman Frank Laszlo said he plans to raise the issue at tonight’s council meeting.

Problem ‘for Nearly 15 Years’

“There has been a problem on that road for nearly 15 years, and residents in that area have a right to be concerned,” said Laszlo, whose Council District No. 4 represents north Seal Beach, including College Park East, the housing tract bordered by Lampson.

Longtime residents like Patty Campbell complained Sunday that Lampson has become a popular alternative for weary commuters trying to avoid the stop-and-go grind of the San Diego Freeway. As a result, traffic on Lampson, which divides College Park East and the Armed Forces Reserve Center at Los Alamitos, has steadily increased, and with it has come problems.


Among the concerns is a sharp curve on Lampson between Heather and Candleberry that residents want realigned, according to Campbell. She said that some sort of center divider on Lampson is also needed to keep cars from crossing into oncoming traffic lanes, or even worse, plowing through a block wall separating the roadway from homes.

“Those homes that back up to Lampson need some protection,” said Campbell, who has lived in the 4400 block of Ironwood Avenue for nearly 20 years. An eight-foot wall is all that stands between her back yard and Lampson.

“In some homes, the master bedroom is less than 15 feet from Lampson,” Campbell said. “And the only thing separating the two is a block wall. It’s just a matter of time before a car winds up in someone’s bedroom. It’s a frightening thought.”

Early Sunday, Campbell said she was awakened by the familiar sound of sirens. The sirens followed a loud explosion and a huge flash resembling lightning as the Jeep Cherokee struck the two power poles. Power was knocked out to about 2,000 customers, mostly in Seal Beach, for more than four hours, police said.

“The wires started arcing and it was like a lightning storm,” Campbell said. “Then everything went dark, except for the glow from the flashing lights.”

On Aug. 23, Michael Barry Cliens, 19, of Los Alamitos died when his Chevrolet Camaro failed to make the curve on Lampson near Heather and struck several trees. Police estimate that the vehicle was traveling more than 85 m.p.h.

On Sept. 1, a five-car pileup on the same stretch of Lampson during the evening rush hour seriously injuried two motorists.

Laszlo said one solution may be to install concrete center dividers on Lampson similar to those on freeways. Another may be to coax motorists to slow down by recording their speed on a radar-fed, roadside speedometer with 12-inch-high digital numbers displayed on a screen built into the end of small trailer.