Driver ordered to stand trial in electrocution deaths

A makeshift memorial at the accident scene in Valley Village where two women died after being electrocuted in August 2012.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
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A 19-year-old driver who crashed into a utility pole in Valley Village has been ordered to stand trial for manslaughter in the deaths of two women who tried to come to his aid, only to be electrocuted by downed power lines.

Arman Samsonian of Glendale slammed his sport utility vehicle into a light pole and nearby fire hydrant last Aug. 22. After the violent crash, two women ran toward the SUV to render aid, officials said.

Both of the would-be rescuers, Irma Zamora and Stacey Schreiber, were killed instantly when they stepped into a pool of water that had been electrified by 4,800 volts from the fallen power line.


Six others were injured when they also made contact with the water and were shocked.

On Wednesday, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled that there was enough evidence for Samsonian to be tried on two felony counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.

“He was definitely driving negligently, he definitely had disregard for others,” Superior Court Judge Karen Nudell said.

She made the ruling after witnesses took the stand to relay the horrible, fast-moving events of that summer night.

Daniel Woloszyn testified that he had pulled over to call 911 after witnessing the crash. Meanwhile, his wife, Irma Zamora, jumped out of their vehicle to see if “whoever was in the accident was OK.”

As he got out to investigate, Woloszyn said he saw his 40-year-old wife lying on the ground, dead after stepping into the electrified water.

He stepped in to grab her, but was immediately shocked himself.

“My train of thought wasn’t about the motorist, it was about my wife’s death,” Woloszyn said during the preliminary hearing.


Schreiber, 39, of Valley Village was electrocuted trying to assist Samsonian.

Samsonian, who was 19 at the time of the incident, offered little reaction as he sat in the Van Nuys courtroom.

Officials allege Samsonian was driving at a high rate of speed on Magnolia Boulevard that night at about 8:20 p.m. before losing control and striking the light pole and fire hydrant at Ben Avenue in Valley Village, officials said.

Witnesses testified seeing Samsonian’s Chevrolet Traverse driving recklessly prior to the crash.

Samsonian’s attorney, Andrew Flier, didn’t argue that his client may have been driving recklessly on Magnolia, but said there was no way to know that the “intervening acts” would occur once he turned onto Ben and crashed.

The defense attorney also argued that the people on the scene should have known the inherent dangers associated with downed power lines and standing water.



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Rocha and Wells write for Times Community News.