Venice crash: Death of Italian newlywed tragic, L.A. mayor says
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Monday called the hit-and-run rampage on the Venice boardwalk a tragedy.
He said he will be reaching out to the husband and family of the Italian woman killed Saturday while on her honeymoon.
“This should have been the happiest moment of her life,” the mayor said.
Garcetti also said he will be working with Councilman Mike Bonin to engineer the boardwalk entries in a way that protects the public while still allowing access to emergency vehicles.
He said the city will look at “how to keep better control in Venice” while keeping its character intact.
Alice Gruppioni, 32, the Italian tourist on her honeymoon, died Saturday after witnesses said the blue Dodge sedan tore across Ocean Front Walk, appearing to target pedestrians as it reached speeds near 60 mph. Eleven others, including Gruppioni’s husband, were injured, officials said.
Gruppioni’s family arrived in Southern California on Sunday night, NBC Los Angeles reported.
“She was robbed of her life while living her dream visit to California with her husband,” Katia Gruppioni, the victim’s aunt, told NBC4 in a text message. “This was a tremendous injustice. Alice was a remarkable young lady making her personal dreams come true.”
Gruppioni is the daughter of Valerio Gruppioni, a businessman and former president of the Bologna soccer team, the Associated Press reported. He is the president of Sira Group, a producer of heating radiators.
“Born in a very traditional Italian family, she became part of the family’s business when she was only 19,” Katia Gruppioni told NBC4.
The suspect in the rampage, identified as Nathan Campbell, 38, remained behind bars Monday in lieu of $1-million bail. Campbell abandoned his vehicle on a nearby street and walked into a police station to turn himself in about an hour after the incident, police said.
Police said Campbell, a Colorado native who sources said was possibly living in his car, asked how many people had been injured in the incident.
Witnesses and victims described a scene of confusion and chaos as the sedan tore across about a quarter-mile down the boardwalk.
Mustafa Balci said when he first saw the car screech around a corner at the boardwalk, he figured the driver had simply become confused and would quickly turn around and leave.
Instead, he said, the vehicle sped forward, hitting a metal trash can, turning a table into flying shards and storming “like a train” through the tent where Balci sells handmade pendants.
“If I was sitting a few inches to the left or to the right, I would have died,” Balci said, noting that he was hit by the car and that his wife landed in a nearby patch of grass after being flipped in the air by the vehicle.
John Drolette, who watched the incident from the second-story balcony of the Cadillac Hotel, said there were “thousands of people in the promenade.”
“He was zigzagging; he did it on purpose,” Drolette said of the driver.
Of the injured, a woman whose name has not been released because of privacy laws was listed in serious condition at UCLA Medical Center on Sunday.
Four other people, including two women and two men, were treated at the hospital and released. Others injured during the incident suffered minor injuries and were either released or are being treated at other area hospitals.
Gruppioni’s husband, Christian, was hospitalized with minor injuries.
Video taken from a restaurant on narrow Dudley Avenue shows a man believed to be Campbell pacing near a sedan, then getting into the car and driving suddenly forward, out of camera range.
Another video shows the moments that followed: The sedan slamming into unsuspecting pedestrians and ramming a canopy before turning left and speeding down Ocean Front Walk at an hour when many were simply waiting to watch the setting sun.
The Dodge first tried to exit through a parking lot but struck a sunglasses stand, onlookers said. It then backed up and found a way out at Park Avenue, a street with no blocking barriers, they said.
Officials said the driver entered Ocean Front Walk by driving the car onto a sidewalk and finding enough space to maneuver past five narrow concrete pylons, a barrier meant to block cars.
Several Venice locals said Sunday that more barriers were needed to keep motorists from deliberately or accidentally entering the boardwalk. Some streets that end at the boardwalk already have barriers, but others do not. A few times a year, cars accidentally turn onto the boardwalk, said Michael Aulberry, a resident for 35 years.
Bonin, whose council district includes Venice, agreed that additional barriers were needed. He cautioned that they would have to be installed so that people with disabilities and emergency vehicles could get onto the boardwalk. He also said the issue was complicated because there are parking areas on the beach that can only be reached by driving over the boardwalk at Rose Avenue.
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