Delores Nikodinov of San Pedro, the mother of figure skater Angela Nikodinov, was killed when a van carrying the family from Portland International Airport to the city for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships collided with a car on Interstate 205, hit a highway barrier and flipped onto its side, police said Wednesday night.
Delores Nikodinov, 48, was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident, on the southbound side of the highway, at 9:19 a.m. Angela Nikodinov, 24, and her father, Nick, were treated at Legacy Emanuel Hospital and released. Angela Nikodinov's coach, Igor Pashkevich, was hospitalized overnight for observation.
Delores and Nick Nikodinov were born in Bulgaria. Angela, an only child, was born in Spartanburg, S.C., but the family moved to Southern California when she was a toddler. She has finished in the top five at the U.S. championships seven times and won two bronze medals and barely missed a spot on the 2002 Olympic team.
"Her family came from Bulgaria for the American dream, and they had it. They had their health and their lives and Angela was achieving everything," said her agent, David Baden of IMG. "These were not skating parents. These were parents who were truly devoted to their daughter and to making her dreams come true."
Nikodinov, who won the Skate America title in October, withdrew from the women's event, which will begin today at the Rose Garden with the short program.
Brian Schmautz, public information officer for the Portland Police Bureau, said weather apparently played no part in the accident. Preliminary indications were that neither van driver Sergey Anikin of Portland nor the driver of the car, Melissa Fitzpatrick of Vancouver, Wash., was impaired.
"It's our understanding, in talking to criminal investigators, it was more of a fluke, simply because of the victim's position in the vehicle," Schmautz said. "The vehicle hits the jersey barrier, the [right-front] tire blows out, which causes the vehicle to roll on its side. When the vehicle rolls on its side, the victim's position in the car was next to the window, and the window exploded and it was head trauma, contact with the victim's head with the pavement. Had the van not rolled or had she been in a slightly different place, the accident may not have killed her. When you look at the van, there's nothing about the van that would suggest it would have been the type in a fatal accident."
Nikodinov, an ethereal skater with superb skills but fragile confidence, has endured many tragedies in a little more than three years. Her coach, Elena Tcherkasskaia, died of cancer in November 2001, she had to switch coaches twice, needed shoulder surgery that idled her for most of the 2002-03 season and had to flee her Lake Arrowhead residence when wildfires ravaged the area in late 2003.
Frank Carroll, who coached her after Tcherkasskaia died, was stunned by the news.
"That's hideous. Absolutely horrible," he said when reached via cellphone. "She's a very nice lady. I'm so sorry. I'm just shocked out of my gourd.
"Her mother was always very nice to me. I never had a cross word with her. This is going to be really hard on this girl, after Elena too."
Word began filtering to skaters during the evening's pair competition. Rena Inoue and John Baldwin Jr. of Santa Monica, who are second after the short program to Katie Orscher and Garrett Lucash, knew Delores Nikodinov and were shocked to learn of her death.
"She was a very sweet, soft lady," Inoue said. "She was with Angela all the time, for good and bad. It's so sad."
Baldwin said he'd been told by another skater before he skated and had difficulty blocking it out. "I spoke with her about a month ago," he said. "She always came to the rink with Angela, always real proud of her and enjoying her daughter's success."
Schmautz said that some of the occupants of the van were wearing seat belts but that state law does not require passengers in airport vans to wear them. He also said investigators were seeking information from witnesses and that the driver of the other car had cooperated fully with investigators.
In ice dance, Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto earned four perfect 6.0 scores for presentation of their original dance and virtually clinched a second consecutive triumph. Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov are second, but Tiffany Stiegler of Manhattan Beach and Sergey Magerovskiy dropped from third to fourth. Friday's free dance is worth 50% of each couple's score.