Boy, 15, dies of injuries to become 4th fatality in Eagle Rock car crash

Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

A 15-year-old boy injured in a fiery car crash in Eagle Rock today became the fourth person to die from the accident that police suspect occurred as three cars raced down a busy stretch of Colorado Boulevard.

Andrew Cordova, 15, died about 9:50 a.m. at Huntington Memorial Hospital of multiple injuries suffered in Wednesday night’s crash, said Craig Harvey, chief investigator of the Los Angeles County coroner’s office.

Meanwhile, Rostislav Shnayder, 19, of Eagle Rock, was charged today with four counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence in connection with the accident, said Det. Felix Padilla, of the Los Angeles Police Department who is investigating the crash. Bail was recommended at $200,000.

Shnayder is scheduled to appear for his arraignment hearing on Tuesday. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 10 years in state prison

Cordova’s two sisters, Cristyn Nicole, 19, who was pregnant, and Toni Marie, 16; and a family friend, Jason Hernandez, 19, also died in the crash.

Carlos Alberto Campos, Cristyn’s 19-year-old boyfriend and the unborn child’s father, remains in critical condition at Huntington hospital in Pasadena.

All five were in a Nissan Maxima being driven by Cristyn Cordova, police said.

Shnayder was driving a Mistubishi Eclipse that collided with the Nissan, causing it to careen out of control, slam into a tree and burst into flames, police said.

There was no indication that Shnayder was impaired by drugs or alcohol, police said.

Shnayder was not charged with street racing because it would be “too difficult to prove,” Padilla said, noting that he has not been able to interview Campos about what happened..

“We’ve made attempts to talk to him, and he hasn’t been able to communicate with us,” Padilla said. “He’s still in pretty serious condition, but he’s improving.”

Padilla said witnesses saw three cars speeding west on Colorado Boulevard when the Mitsubishi hit the Nissan about 10:30 p.m. near Highland View Avenue. Police are searching for the third vehicle, described only as a “small white car.”

Witnesses said the cars were traveling at “dangerous” speeds, about 70 mph in a 35 mph zone, Padilla said. “We’re going by witness accounts that the cars were racing,” he said.

City officials said they are aware of speeding on the stretch of Colorado Boulevard between the Glendale and Ventura freeways -- which funnel traffic onto the busy street -- and vowed a new crackdown on speeders and street racers.

From 1994 to 2006, there were 286 accidents that resulted in injuries on this stretch of the boulevard, according to a Times analysis of California Highway Patrol data. Of those, 108 accidents, or 38%, involved speeding violations.

About a year ago, Councilman Jose Huizar, whose district includes Eagle Rock, said the LAPD had assigned a task force to deal with speeding and street racing on the boulevard. An increased police presence seemed to help, he said. Earlier this year, the city synchronized traffic lights to slow motorists.

After Wednesday night’s crash, police plan to reactivate the task force, Huizar said.

“It’s the speeding that’s the problem,” he said, “and once in a while, like in the incident last night, we suspect maybe the individuals just started racing each other. But there’s nothing to make us believe this was a planned race.”

At nearby Eagle Rock High School on Thursday afternoon, students gathering to pick up their fall schedules could be seen crying and hugging one another as word spread about the accident.

Student Jessica Diaz, 17, said Toni was her best friend. She described her as caring and thoughtful, making cookies and cakes to mark her friends’ birthdays and other special occasions.

“She was always happy,” Jessica said before breaking down in sobs. “I miss her.”

She said she knew Toni’s sister and did not believe she was involved in street racing.

“I don’t think so, especially because her sister was going to give birth next month,” she said. “I don’t think it was racing. If anything, it was the other two cars and they got in the middle of it.”

At the crash site on Colorado Boulevard, five bouquets had been left under the bloodstain on the tree -- bunches of roses, sunflowers, lilies and carnations. Prayer candles were placed nearby.

Steve Leonard, 37, who has lived on Highland View Avenue for nearly nine years, said he has seen two or three accidents on Colorado Boulevard that he believes involved street racing. He said he often hears the rumble of engines or sees speeding on the street, especially on weekends or late at night.

“You can get moving down Colorado pretty fast,” he said. “There’s not a lot of cross traffic, and you could blow a red light and get going . . . there’s a lot of whipping down the street.”

Times staff writer Doug Smith contributed to this report.