Holiday hit-and-run victim dies

Deepa Bharath

A 24-year-old man, who was in critical condition after a traffic

accident on Memorial Day, died on Saturday.

Paul Awad was walking across the street on a marked crosswalk in

the intersection of MacArthur Boulevard and Bonita Canyon Road at

about 9:25 p.m. on Memorial Day, when he was hit by a black Nissan

Altima driven by Dulce Itzamara Herrera, a 21-year-old Santa Ana

woman who worked as a housekeeper at the Four Seasons Hotel in

Newport Beach, police said.

Herrera fled the scene but turned herself in on June 7 after

Newport Beach police investigators tracked down her car and her

family in Santa Ana.

Awad had been in a coma since the accident and took a turn for the

worse last week, said his brother, Keith Awad.

"He suffered severe brain injuries," Keith Awad said. "And then

infection set in. Ever since he got hit, he has just been clinging on

to his life."

With the turn of events, police have not yet made a decision about

altering the charges, Newport Beach Police Lt. John Klein said.

"We're still investigating the accident," he said. "We still need

some questions answered. Once we have the complete picture, we'll be

making a decision about the nature of the charges."

Paul Awad's mother, Jeannie Awad-Morgan, said her family has

decided not to press charges against Herrera.

"There's no joy in taking two lives," she said. "Paul was young

and just starting out his life. So was she."

Awad-Morgan said she and her family "would leave it to the

authorities" and not worry about pursuing the prosecution.

The family held a press conference days after the incident seeking

the public's help to catch the hit-and-run driver. At least 100 of

Paul Awad's friends flocked to the police department to show their

support for the family. Paul Awad was a Corona del Mar High School

graduate and worked at Neiman Marcus in Fashion Island at the time of

his accident. He was also pursuing a career as a photographer.

Cara Mungo, one of his best friends, said she is "in shock." Her

fiance, James Jerome Snyder, died in a hit-and-run car crash on the

Costa Mesa Freeway about nine months ago.

"Paul had made a pact with Jerome that he was going to take care

of me," Mungo said. "But he too is gone now. I can't believe it. It's

confusing. It's hard to understand."

Mungo said goodbye to Paul Awad Saturday morning, hours before his

death.

Keith Awad baptized his son in his brother's presence Saturday

morning, he said.

"Paul was his godfather," he said. "And we did it right there in

the hospital room with our family present."

Keith Awad called his brother "a selfless person who got his

thrills from helping other people."

"Paul would make everyone feel like they're his best friend," he

said.

His mother said Paul was at a "positive point in his life."

"He was feeling good about himself and was excited about his

future," she said. "It's a tragedy for sure, and I'm going to miss

him terribly. But what a great way for him to go, when he was feeling

that happy and positive about himself."

Seeing so many of her son's friends over the last few days has

been enlightening, Awad-Morgan said.

"He was a tender, sensitive and caring young man," she said. "He

was a beautiful person."

Paul Awad is also survived by his father, Ed; brothers Mark, Eric

and Tim; and sister, Nicole.

A funeral mass is scheduled to be held at 11 a.m. on Thursday at

Our Lady Queen of Angels Roman Catholic Church in Newport Beach.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to

Parent Help U.S.A. or Human Options.

* DEEPA BHARATH covers public safety and courts. She may be

reached at (949) 574-4226 or by e-mail at deepa.bharath@latimes.com.

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