TEJON PASS : Claim Filed in Fatal Christo Umbrella Accident

The family of a Camarillo woman killed last year by a Christo umbrella uprooted in high winds near Lebec has filed a claim accusing Kern County officials of failing to predict the potential dangers of the huge environmental art display.

Lori Keevil Mathews, 34, died Oct. 26 when gusty winds ripped one of the 488-pound yellow umbrellas from its moorings near a Kern County road and sent it tumbling down a hill into a crowd of spectators. The 20-foot umbrella knocked Mathews into a boulder, killing her instantly.

Since Mathews' death, which prompted the immediate dismantling of all 1,760 umbrellas erected in the Tejon Pass near Gorman, her family has been negotiating a settlement with the artist.

The claim against Kern County is just a procedural step to protect the family's right to sue later, attorney Darold D. Pieper said Wednesday. He said Kern County would be sued only if negotiations with Christo broke down.

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