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IRVINE : Driver Hits Pole, Killing Passenger

A 76-year-old man apparently suffered a heart attack while driving his van Sunday afternoon, hitting a traffic signal pole and killing his paraplegic son, who was seated in his wheelchair in the back of the van.

The father was in critical condition at Western Medical Center-Santa Ana Sunday night, police said. The names of the older man and his 38-year-old son, both Irvine residents, were being withheld pending notification of relatives.

Officers called to the intersection of Main Street and Gillette Avenue about 12:30 p.m. found a 1989 Ford van smashed into the signal pole on the northwest corner, Sgt. Dwight Henninger said. The older man, who was not wearing a seat belt, was at the wheel; his son was found in the back of the van, Henninger said.

The younger man was taken to Irvine Medical Center where he died, Henninger said.

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Henninger said the van had been moving erratically for some distance before it struck the signal pole. Heading west on Main Street, it hit the curb just east of Von Karman Avenue, then continued, scraping its wheels along the curb, through the intersection against a red light, Henninger said.

The van jumped the curb at the corner of Main and Von Karman, hitting an empty bus stop bench, then bounced back into the road and drove against the curb for about a quarter-mile, until it veered into the traffic light pole and came to a stop, Henninger said.

Henninger said the preliminary investigation concluded that the driver’s actions may have been caused by a heart attack.

Police found few witnesses to the accident. Anyone with information is asked to call Officer Doug Coffing at (714) 724-7024.

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