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Veteran Boxer, Suspect Die in 3-Car Accident

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Veteran boxer Ernie Magdaleno, who won a 10-round decision Thursday night, was killed Sunday afternoon when he was thrown from his vehicle in an explosive, three-car collision caused by a motorist being chased by police at speeds of up to 100 mph.

Magdaleno, 32, of Westminster, and the speeding motorist, identified as John Kenneth Bandola Jr., 19, of Cypress, were dead at the scene.

Magdaleno’s wife and two children were taken to area hospitals with minor injuries, police said, and Bandola’s passenger, whose name was withheld, was airlifted to UC Irvine Medical Center, where she was reported in critical condition. She is believed to be a 20-year-old Huntington Beach resident.

The crash occurred at the intersection of Edinger Avenue and Newland Street in Huntington Beach shortly after 2 p.m., police said. Magdaleno was southbound on Newland when his Jeep Cherokee was broadsided by Bandola’s Ford Escort, which was westbound on Edinger and went through a red light.

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Magdaleno was thrown from his vehicle and landed on a median strip on Edinger, striking his head on the curb, said Huntington Beach Police Officer Robert Barr.

“He was like a son to me. We would call each other twice a day,” said his trainer, Clyde Armijo of Huntington Beach. “He was an honest guy, a real dedicated boxer and a family man.”

Magdaleno’s record, 21-1-1, included a 10-round decision Thursday against an outclassed Roman Santos, the only boxer who stood in the way of his chance to fight for the World Boxing Council’s light-heavyweight title.

Magdaleno said after the fight that he felt he was in the best condition of his career, the result of intense training after suffering his only loss in a title fight in Germany in 1994.

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A native of Westminster, Magdaleno attended Westminster High School and took up fighting in his 20s, Armijo said. He developed an unpredictable boxing style that confounded opponents with bursts of punches from awkward angles.

“He was what was good about the sport of boxing--a hard worker--just a real skilled fighter with a big heart,” said Roy Englebrecht, a promoter of the monthly fights at the Irvine Marriott, where Magdaleno often fought.

The crash, which sent one car flipping over sideways three times and left car parts scattered over several hundred feet, followed a 2 1/2-mile police chase that began a few blocks from a Mobil service station at Warner and Brookhurst avenues in Fountain Valley.

Bandola and his female companion were accused of trying to steal camera equipment from a man at the station and hitting him with their car as they fled. Fountain Valley police began chasing Bandola westbound on Warner Avenue to Bushard Street, then north to Edinger and west to Newland.

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There, Bandola crashed into Magdaleno’s car, which then hit the side of a Geo Prizm waiting for a green light on the eastbound lane of Edinger, Barr said. Neither the man nor the woman in the Geo was injured.

The bloody crash left witnesses shaken as they described the events.

Carol Whaley of Huntington Beach, who witnessed the accident, said a woman sprang from the crumpled Jeep and screamed for help as she knelt beside the man lying in the intersection.

“She was over him hollering, ‘Help! We need help!’ ” Whaley said. “She was cradling him and he was lying in the street. I was terrified and shaking, and I could hardly stand.”

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Whaley, who was driving east on Edinger, said the Ford Escort narrowly missed her car as it tumbled by, flipping over sideways at least three times before it finally came to a stop on the sidewalk on the south side of Edinger, about 150 feet west of the intersection.

“I had just come out of my apartment complex, when all of a sudden I heard this bang,” Whaley said.

Whaley said the officer chasing the Ford arrived seconds later, surveyed the bloody scene inside that badly damaged car, and said to the slumped-over driver, “Good. That’s what you get.” Fountain Valley police said later that the remark, if made, was “not appropriate.”

As work crews cleaned glass and scraps of metal from the intersection late Sunday, the Escort was loaded onto the back of a tow truck. The right side of the car was caved in, the shattered windshield lay across the crumpled hood like a blanket, and spattered blood covered the white paint of the passenger-side door.

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The chase began after Fountain Valley Police received a call from a man who said he was putting air in the tires of his van at a gas station when he saw a woman reach into the van and grab camera equipment, Fountain Valley Police Lt. Larry Griswold said.

The man grabbed the equipment back from the woman as she climbed into the Escort. When he walked to the back of the car to get its license plate number, the Escort lurched backward, striking him without hurting him, and sped away, Griswold said.

A lone police officer quickly spotted Bandola driving the Ford and gave chase.

Bandola pulled over on Bushard, Griswold said, but when the officer stepped out of his car, Bandola sped away. The officer climbed back into his car, then chased the Ford as it turned westbound on Edinger toward the Newland intersection.

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Griswold said that as a matter of policy, the accident and the behavior of the police officer involved in the chase will be investigated thoroughly. He said that there is no evidence that the officer behaved improperly during the chase.

Barr and other police officers at the scene said the pursuing squad car left no skid marks, indicating it was following the Escort at a safe distance.


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