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1 teen killed, 4 hurt when van crashes into bus stop

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Lin and Merl are Times staff writers.

A 14-year-old boy was killed and four other teenagers were injured Monday when a van jumped a curb and slammed into a bus shelter in South Gate.

The crash occurred on Firestone Boulevard at Otis Street about 3:30 p.m., just after classes let out for the day at South Gate Middle School, across the street from the crowded bus stop, South Gate police said.

Police were questioning the driver of the van, whom they identified as Eduardo Rojo, 18, of South Gate, and were searching for his passenger, who witnesses said leaped out of the van after the crash and ran up Otis Street.

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The mortally wounded boy was taken to St. Francis Hospital in Lynwood, where he died, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said. Authorities have not yet released his name.

Paramedics took the other injured teenagers to two area hospitals, but their injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.

In addition to the five students who were struck, a teenager who witnessed the accident from the parking lot of a nearby McDonald’s fainted and suffered a minor head injury, police said.

Hours after the crash, students from the middle school and nearby South Gate High School milled about the site, hoping to learn whether any of their friends had been involved. They said the bus stop is always jammed in the afternoon with students leaving the schools or McDonald’s.

Police said they were talking with about 25 witnesses and reviewing a videotape from a McDonald’s security camera. The camera caught the image of the van once it left the street and went onto the sidewalk, plowing into the bus shelter and causing its roof to collapse. The driver also struck a utility pole. The van, a black Chevrolet, sat at the scene, its right tires flat and its passenger door ajar, for several hours after the crash.

The bus shelter, its roof knocked askew, was covered in glass and other debris. Several shoes were strewn on the sidewalk and on the bench, clearly visible beyond the yellow police tape. A sign above the shelter proclaimed it a “Safe School Zone Bus Stop.”

“It’s terrible,” South Gate Police Capt. Vincent Avila said as he worked with others to investigate the crash.

He said the van had been traveling west on Firestone when the driver lost control and ended up on the sidewalk. Avila said the driver was cooperating with police. He underwent some preliminary drug and alcohol tests, but no results were available Monday.

“It’s very shocking,” said Paola Serna, 12, a seventh-grader at the middle school. “It might have been one of my friends.” She said she was now afraid to take the bus.

Francisco Romero, 12, surveyed the scene with his brother Jonathan, 13, and said, “That could happen to anybody.”

“It’s really nerve-racking,” said Stephanie Arreola, 16, a junior at South Gate High. “I think it’s very dangerous,” she added, noting that she sometimes waits at that bus stop for a ride home. She said she doubted that her parents would let her younger sister use the bus stop when she starts at the middle school next year.

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joanna.lin@latimes.com

jean.merl@latimes.com


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