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Lake Forest Couple Die in Accident Near Home

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Tammy and Henry Vu of Lake Forest were just blocks from returning home from shopping Friday night when a suspected drunk driver plowed into their car, killing them both.

They leave behind two sons, one of whom is 14 and lived with his parents. The other is a 24-year-old medical student who lives in Michigan.

Sheriff’s officials arrested William O’Dell, 39, of Lake Forest, on suspicion of drunk driving. O’Dell, who was released on bail Saturday, could face vehicular manslaughter charges, sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Ron White said.

O’Dell sustained minor injuries in the accident, White said. Tammy Vu, 49, died at the scene of the collision from massive head injuries. Henry Vu, 52, was taken to Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center in Mission Viejo, where he died of blunt force trauma to the head and neck.

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The Vus and O’Dell “were both within minutes of their houses,” said Lt. Ron White.

“It’s very sad.”

The accident occurred about 8:50 p.m. Friday as the Vus were driving westbound on Lake Forest Drive in a Toyota sedan after shopping. O’Dell--in a Chevrolet Camaro--was driving in the opposite direction. Authorities said O’Dell collided with the Vus as they attempted a left-hand turn onto Fernleaf Drive.

On Saturday, neighbors tried to come to terms with their friends being dead.

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“It really takes the life out of you. One day they’re here and the next thing you know, they’re gone,” said Cathy Kang, 38. Kang--a neighbor since 1987 and carpool driver for the Vus’ teenage son--cried as she stared at the couple’s empty carport.

Other neighbors--some of whom said they had tossed and turned all night Friday while trying to sleep--said the intersection where the accident occurred is a dangerous one.

“I couldn’t begin to tell you how many accidents have been there,” said Sharon Olivieri, 45, who has lived at that intersection for 11 years. “I’ve lost track.”

Olivieri said she and other neighbors have complained repeatedly to authorities about the 50-mph speed limit along Lake Forest Drive, but she said the complaints have not been heeded.

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“I won’t make a left-hand turn there,” said former nurse Charlene Bernard, 37, who assisted at the accident scene Friday while waiting for paramedics.

“They need to put a signal there.”

She said she hopes that the deaths will finally prompt safety measures on the road.

Authorities did not have a reading of O’Dell’s blood-alcohol level Saturday nor could they provide the speed at which he was driving.

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Neighbors said they believed the couple’s 14-year-old son, Jerry, was staying with relatives from Irvine. Tony Bui, a friend of Jerry’s since second grade, said he was sad for his friend.

“It makes me worry about my own family, if they were to be killed in an accident,” Bui said. “I’m going to be very supportive to him.”


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