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Family Looks for Answers in Woman’s Fatal Crash

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Family members of Josephine Collins, who was killed in a car collision Monday in Northridge, were still trying on Tuesday to understand what caused the 56-year-old woman to drive across the center divider on Lassen Avenue and crash head-on into another car.

“We thought she may have passed out,” said Edward Wheat, who added that his mother-in-law was a diabetic.

Collins died at the scene of the accident after her car, traveling westbound on Lassen Avenue near Encino Avenue, slammed into a vehicle carrying five people, including three children, who had just been picked up from school by their mothers.

“She hadn’t been feeling well lately and her blood-sugar level had been going up and down,” said Collins’ only daughter, Risa Wheat of Arleta, on Tuesday.

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But her mother, who lived in Sherman Oaks, was feeling good on Monday, Risa Wheat said. Collins had spent the weekend at a family gathering at the Wheats’ new house in Arleta.

Risa Wheat said she spoke to her mother an hour before the fatal accident.

“She told me felt fine and she had eaten breakfast,” Wheat said. “I told her ‘Take care of yourself, Mom, and I’ll see you later.’ ”

At the time of the accident, Collins was on her way to pick up her 11-year-old grandson and her 9-year-old granddaughter from school, a task she enjoyed since she retired from her job as a teaching assistant at a HeadStart Program in South-Central Los Angeles, the Wheats said.

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“She was full of love and would do anything for her grandkids or anyone else,” Edward Wheat said.

On Tuesday, Risa Wheat and her family tried to cope with Collins’ death as they recalled good memories Wheat shared with her mother.

“I love her very much and I’ll miss her,” said Risa Wheat. “I’ll do the best I can without her.”

The coroner’s office had not scheduled an autopsy to determine the cause of death.

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The driver of the other car in the collision, Eun Chi Sim, remained in guarded condition at Northridge Hospital Medical Center after surgery Monday. The 34-year-old Northridge woman suffered cuts to her forehead and a broken pelvis, leg and ankle, said Detective John Miller of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Valley Traffic Division.

Her son, Anthony Sim, 8, whose jaw was broken in the accident, is listed in stable condition at Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles. His sister, Christine Sim, 9, was treated for bruises and released from Northridge Hospital Medical Center on Monday.

The other passengers in Sim’s car were her sister-in-law, Nicole Jun of Granada Hills, and Jun’s son, Ike, 5. Ike’s collarbone was fractured. He was released from Childrens Hospital on Tuesday.

Nicole Jun, 27, suffered a broken collarbone, sprained wrist and bruised knees. She was treated at Northridge Hospital Medical Center and released Monday.

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A driver of a third car, which slammed into Sim’s vehicle, was treated at Granada Hills Community Hospital and released Monday.


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