Driver can be tried for manslaughter in crash that caused two deaths

Driver can be tried for manslaughter in crash that caused two deaths
A make shift memorial at the accident scene, where two women died after being electrocuted and six others were injured Wednesday night after an SUV smashed into a fire hydrant and downed a light pole in Valley Village, sparking an electrical hazard. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

When Arman Samsonian of Glendale slammed his SUV into a light pole and nearby fire hydrant one night in Valley Village, the lethal ramifications would come swift and without warning.

In the moments that followed on that Aug. 22 night, two women — one from Burbank, the other from Valley Village — would die trying to render aid, stepping into water that had been electrified with 4,800 volts.


On Wednesday, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge handed down another ramification, ruling 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 grim night.

Daniel Woloszyn testified that he had pulled over to call 911 after witnessing the crash. Meanwhile, his wife, Burbank resident 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.


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

Stacey Schreiber, 39, of Valley Village would also be electrocuted trying to assist Samsonian. When it was all said and done, two people were dead and six others, including a Los Angeles police officer and Samsonian, were injured by electrical shock.

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

Witnesses in court also 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 Boulevard, but said there was no way to know that the "intervening acts" would occur once he turned onto Ben Avenue and crashed.

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

Schreiber and Zamora were killed instantly when they stepped into the electrified water as they attempted to reach the wrecked SUV, where Samsonian was trapped inside.


As the would-be rescuers realized what had happened, Lindey Lambert testified she heard "a primal scream" from Woloszyn, his wife's body out of reach in the water.

Rescue crews would eventually have to use a 6-foot-pole to retrieve the women.


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