Car in Fatal Crash Was in Wrong Lane, Police Say


Authorities have identified motorists killed Thursday in a head-on collision on Pleasant Valley Road as 18-year-old Raymond M. Hughes, a student at Oxnard High School, and Melissa J. Cauvel, a 28-year-old driving instructor.

California Highway Patrol officials said Friday that Hughes was driving in the wrong lane when the accident occurred about 4 p.m.

Hughes and Cauvel were pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics. Neither had passengers.

After speaking with a witness Friday morning, CHP Officer Steve Reed said he was able to piece together a preliminary scenario of the accident.

Reed said the witness was driving west on rural Pleasant Valley Road near Sturgis Road when she saw a white Ford Taurus approach--partially in the westbound lane.

"The witness had to move to the right shoulder to avoid a collision," Reed said. "She then looked in her rearview mirror and saw the Ford fully in the westbound lane."

The witness said she saw the Ford collide with Cauvel's white Toyota Corolla, which was headed toward Oxnard. The witness stopped at a nearby house and called 911.

Reed said it is not known why Hughes was in the wrong lane. There was no indication at the scene that alcohol was involved.

"The coroner still has the toxicology tests to do and there's background interviews we'll do and then go from there," Reed said.

However, authorities have determined that excessive speed was a factor in the accident on the rural road, where the speed limit is 55 mph.

"Based on the extreme damage to both cars, either one or both of them were exceeding the speed limit," Reed said.

There have now been eight fatal car collisions in Ventura County this year, resulting in 10 deaths.

In 1996, 39 people in Ventura County were killed on city roads, 20 on unincorporated state highways and 12 on county roads. Eleven of those fatal accidents occurred in Oxnard. Statewide that year, 3,972 people died in car accidents.

The No. 1 cause of fatal accidents is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, said Steve Kohler, spokesman at CHP headquarters in Sacramento. The second most frequent cause of fatal collisions is speed.

"We want folks to slow down in general, but especially on rural roads because you either end up in a field or head-on with somebody," Reed said.

While CHP authorities continued their investigation Friday, family and friends of both victims were in mourning.

Two of Cauvel's friends stopped by her Camarillo apartment on Palm Street above Window Box Antiques on Friday afternoon to pick up insurance papers and look for phone numbers to inform friends of her death. They were too distraught to comment.

However, Cauvel's roommate of two months characterized her as "wonderful, very friendly, outgoing and caring."

"She didn't have a bad bone in her body," Calvin York said.

Cauvel enjoyed working as a driving instructor at America Driving School in Camarillo, York said.

Meanwhile, grieving students attended counseling sessions Friday at Oxnard High School, where Hughes was a popular varsity basketball player. About 50 students also gathered to say the rosary at The Cross in Ventura at Grant Park.

"He was a fine young man--very well-liked and very friendly," said Principal Daisy Tatum.

Tatum said Hughes was passionate about basketball and began playing on the team as a freshman. She said Hughes had planned to go to college next year.

James Crawford, Hughes' U.S. history teacher last year, said he saw him play every home game last year.

"He was a very fierce player on the court," Crawford said. "All I remember is watching him storming back and forth on the court."

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