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Girl’s Death Is ‘Nobody’s Fault’

Times Staff Writer

A 4-year-old girl who was struck and killed late Thursday by an MTA bus as she rode her tricycle has been identified as Rita Foster, officials said Friday.

An initial investigation into the accident on North Fair Oaks Avenue in Pasadena suggested that no one was at fault and no one would be cited, said Pasadena Police spokeswoman Janet Pope Givens.

Rita was playing with several other children and teens at the Fair Oaks Manor apartment complex when she apparently rolled her tricycle down the sloping driveway, police said. The girl was supposed to turn onto a sidewalk, police said, but instead she rolled in front of the oncoming Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus. She died at the scene.

“This looks like a pure tragic accident,” Pope Givens said. “The initial investigation indicates that this was nobody’s fault, it was an accident, and that nobody’s going to be cited.”

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The girl’s foster mother, Akua Jitihadi, was “exceptionally shaken up,” Pope Givens said. The woman had full guardianship of the girl, Pope Givens said, and there is no indication that negligence was involved.

The driver, Jose Berumen, 56, a 22-year employee who was just a few blocks from finishing his run for the night, was deeply distressed by the accident, said MTA spokesman Bill Heard. Police “took him away from the scene and to their station because he was so upset,” he said.

As is standard practice, Berumen has been tested for drugs and alcohol, but Heard would not release the results.

The MTA operates 2,300 peak-hour buses every day, with 191 bus routes over 1,400 square miles. Since January 2002, 56 Metro bus-related deaths have occurred, Heard said.

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Residents at the apartment complex in the 1900 block of North Fair Oaks Avenue set out flowers, candles and teddy bears against a tree near the girl’s home. Rita, they said, was like a member of their family.

“She was happy all the time, real friendly, very honest. She always told the truth, even when she was in trouble,” said one neighbor. “She was a beautiful, beautiful girl. We definitely feel like we lost one of our own.”

Ondrea Hobsoni, who heard about the accident, said the tragedy was one that could well have touched her own niece, who also likes to roll down her driveway on her bicycle.

“It’s a little game to play,” Hobsoni said. “They think by the time they get to the bottom, they can turn quickly, but they can’t.”

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