Crash slows morning commute through Irwindale

IRWINDALE — A crash involving an overturned car sent one person to the hospital and snarled the freeway commute through Irwindale early Thursday, authorities said.
The crash, initially reported as a solo-car wreck, took place about 7 a.m. on the northbound 605, just south of the 210 Freeway interchange, California Highway Patrol officials said.
Responding officers found a single car that had flipped over in the No. 2 lane, CHP Officer Francisco Villalobos said. An occupant was taken to an area hospital by ambulance in unknown condition.
The two left lanes of the northbound 605 Freeway remained shut down for about an hour following the crash.

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Ex-Irwindale police officer pleads ‘no contest’ to stealing father’s life savings

A former Irwindale police officer accused of stealing his 89-year-old father’s life savings of $250,000 is expected to serve a year in jail after pleading “no contest” Tuesday to a charge of grand theft, authorities said.
Dennis Alva, 48, became a convicted felon after pleading no contest in Los Angeles Superior Court to a single count of grand theft, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Jean Guccione said.
Alva’s father, Jess Alva, said the fact that the thief was his own flesh and blood made the process difficult.
“The worst part is, him and I were so close. We used to have breakfast at least two or three times a week,” Jess Alva said. The father added he had not spoken to his son since his arrest.
“I never thought he would do such as thing. He probably thought I was senile or something.”
Guccione said Alva pleaded no contest as part of a plea agreement.
“He’s going to surrender for jail time on Nov. 18 (at sentencing),” she said.
Alva was expected be sentenced to one year in county jail, along with five years of formal probation,” Guccione said. He was also ordered to pay $250,000 in restitution to his father.
As part of the plea agreement, additional counts of second-degree burglary and elder abuse were dismissed, officials said.
If convicted on all charges, Alva could have faced up to four years behind bars.
Irwindale Interim Police Chief Roy Campos said he was glad that justice was taking it’s course, but had no further comment regarding the case.
“He’s no longer a member of our department,” Campos said. Alva left the Irwindale Police Department within the past month, however Campos said employment privacy laws prevented him from saying whether the officer was terminated or resigned.
The theft took place over several years, investigators said. The money was not recovered, and it was unclear what Alva spent it on.
Alva’s father first reported the theft to police in his hometown of Azusa in January, “When he discovered that the cash he had hidden throughout his garage was missing,” according to a statement issued by the District Attorney’s Office.
Alva was first arrested in April after the case was presented to the District Attorney’s Office Justice System Integrity Division.
Alva is one of three Irwindale police officers who are currently being scrutinized in criminal investigations.
Former Irwindale police Sgt. David Fraijo is the subject of a criminal investigation and a civil rights lawsuit after a woman alleged the sergeant sexually assaulter her during a traffic stop.
Another Irwindale officer, Daniel Camerano, has been placed on administrative leave as internal investigators and sheriff’s investigators looked into an allegation of inappropriate relationship with Explorer Scouts. Further information was not available.

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Truck driver killed in Irwindale crash identified

IRWINDALE — Coroner’s officials on Tuesday identified the big rig driver killed during a weekend crash on the 210 Freeway as a 47-year-old Los Angeles man.
Lt. Fred Corral of the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner said an autopsy was done on Ruben Escobar but the cause of death was deferred. They will conduct toxicology tests and check Escobar’s pacemaker, he said.
The crash on the westbound 210 Freeway, east of Irwindale Avenue was reported to the California Highway Patrol shortly after 12 p.m., Sunday.
CHP Sgt. Carlo Fusco said it was a solo crash. The big rig ran off the road and went down an embankment, he said.
The truck, which was carrying PVC piping, fell about 40 feet and ended up on its wheels.

- Ruby Gonzales

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Heat sends 8 high school runners to hospital during Irwindale cross country meet

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA — Scorching heat that sent eight high school cross country runners to the hospital with heat-related illness Saturday in Irwindale is expected to subside somewhat this week, before rebounding by the weekend, officials said.
As temperatures climbed past 100 degrees Saturday, eight high school track and field athletes had to be taken to hospitals for treatment of heat-related injuries while taking part in the Don Bosco Invitational at the Sante Fe Dam Recreation Area Saturday morning and early afternoon, according to Los Angeles County Fire Department Dispatch Supervisor Kyle Sanford said. The young athletes ranged in age from 13 to 16. The extent of their injuries was not clear.
The temperature at the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area reached 104 degrees by early Saturday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service’s Oxnard office.
Chris Shockley, Athletic Director of Don Bosco Technical Institute in Rosemead, said none of the injuries were believed to be major.
He did not yet know which schools the teens who were treated attended. Dozens of high school sent runners to the event, which involved a 3-mile course.
“We’ve been doing it for years,” he said of the meet. Extra precautions, such as staffing extra emergency medical technicians were taken due to the expected heat.
The student athletes began running at 8 a.m., and the events were completed by 10 a.m.
But the early start was not enough to prevent some runners from feeling ill effects from the heat.
“It started getting pretty warm by 8:30 a.m.,” Shockley said. “That’s when guys started dropping off.”
But the EMTs gave no indication it was unsafe to continue to the race, he said.
Trainers were also on-hand to watch over the student athletes, Shockley said.
Believing the early schedule would allow the race to be completed before it got too hot, Shockley said he’d heard no discussion of cancelling or postponing the cross country meet due to the weather.
“I don’t know if that conversation took place this morning. It didn’t with me,” he said.
Following Saturday’s heat, temperatures should begin dropping by a degree or two each day, NWS Meteorologist John Dumas said.
By Wednesday, the area could be as much as five or ten degrees cooler, he said. And relative humidity levels are expected to drop, reducing the muggy feel in the air.
“We should be getting some relief on that,” Dumas said.
But the mild cooling trend will reverse Thursday.
By Friday, high temperatures will creep back up into the high-90s and into triple-digits throughout the San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys, as well as the Inland Empire, according to NWS forecasts.
Forecasters also made note of a slight chance of rain in the northern mountain ranges of Los Angeles County and the Inland Empire Monday.
But even if the storm does materialize, it’s not expected to be significant, Dumas added.
“We’re not looking for any big storms,” he said.

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Trailer full of camping gear stolen stolen from Young Marines in Irwindale

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Members and organizers of the San Gabriel Valley Young Marines who meet at AMVETS Post 113 in Irwindale arrived at their meeting Wednesday to discover a trailer containing all of their camping gear had been stolen.
The equipment and trailer, valued at about $8,000, was discovered missing Wednesday evening when the group met for the weekly gathering at the post, 14910 E. Los Angeles Street, according to the unit’s commander, Alwyn Torres. It was last seen by group members during their previous meeting Aug. 28.
“Basically, it’s all the gear that we’ve been able to accumulate over the past seven years that we’ve been in existence in Irwindale,” Torres said.
In addition to the 8-foot by 12-foot trailer itself, the stolen equipment included cots, tents, a 5-horsepower generator, a six-burner grill, a recently purchased medical equipment bag worth $500, rappelling gear and other supplies.
More than 80 members of the San Gabriel Valley Young Marines regularly use the equipment, Torres said.
Whoever stole the trailer must have brought their own vehicle with a trailer hitch to remove it, he added.
Police continued checking area surveillance cameras for possible leads, though there was initially not much evidence for investigators, Irwindale police Detective Sgt. George Zendejas said. Information regarding the stolen trailer and items was shared with other area law enforcement agencies.
“We appeal to any witnesses who may have seen anything suspicious,” Zendejas said.
Despite the significant loss, Torres said the Young Marines will continue.
“I’m irritated about it, but we’ll just keep moving forward,” he said.
Young Marines members are planning to take part in a September 11th commemoration ceremony in Montebello Wednesday.
“I will continue. I’m gong to have to do something. Either donations, or borrow from people. Whatever it takes, i can’t neglect my kids.”
Anyone with information was asked to contact Detective Sgt. Zendejas at 626-430-2245, or by email at gzendejas@ci.irwindale.ca.us.
Those interested in donating equipment or funds to replace Young Marines’ stolen items can reach unit commander Torres at 626-241-0055, or by email at tsepmerfi18@yahoo.com.

Members of the San Gabriel Valley Young Marines march in La Verne’s 2013 Independence Day Parade. (Courtesy)

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More than 50 people hurt in Irwindale 210 Freeway tour bus crash

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MONROVIA >> A freeway crash involving an overturned casino-bound tour bus sent more than 50 people to the hospital Thursday.
Los Angeles County Fire Department Deputy Chief John Tripp said he was amazed there weren’t more serious injuries in the 10 a.m. crash on the eastbound 210 Freeway just west of Irwindale Avenue.
A total of 52 people were taken to eight area hospitals with injuries ranging from bumps and bruises to broken bones, fire officials said.
“We did not have any severe injuries,” Tripp said.

Officials described 36 of the injuries as minor, 11 as moderate and 5 as more serious, requiring immediate medical attention, fire Capt. Brian Jordan said.
Seven patients were rushed to hospital by helicopter, Jordan added.
Fifty-one of them were believed to be on-board the bus, including the driver, while the Scion XB involved the crash contained only a driver, according to fire and California Highway Patrol officials.
The tour bus and the Scion were both eastbound on the freeway when, “Somehow, they collided in the number two lane,” CHP Officer Rodrigo Jimenez said. The cause of the initial collision remained under investigation.
“The bus veered all the way to the right, off the roadway, and overturned,” Jimenez said.
The bus came to rest on its side beside traffic lanes, with several passengers trapped inside, CHP Officer Francisco Villalobos said.
Once the injured people had been cared for, the focus shifted to sifting through the wreckage to figure out what happened. CHP Officer Rick Quintero said.
“Initially the primary focus is on the injured parties,” Quintero said. “Now it is just a matter of gathering the evidence on the scene as well as turning over that charter bus and opening up those lanes.”
All lanes in both directions of the 210 Freeway were briefly shut down as helicopters were landed to pick up patients. The eastbound lanes remained closed hours after the collision. Officials worked to reopen traffic lanes as quickly as possible as cars backed up behind the closure.
Early reports from the CHP indicated a semi-truck was involved, though ultimately that was determined not to be the case.
Stopped drivers exited their cars and crossed barriers to see what happened, but were ordered back in their cars by officials
A total of nine agencies took part in the rescue effort and investigation, Tripp said.
“We were crossing the concrete line (on the freeway) and walking to see what was going on, so they cop came by and told everyone to get back in their cars,” said Adrian Canto, who was stuck on the 210 Freeway just west of the Irwindale exit. The Pasadena resident had been on the freeway for more than an hour by 11 a.m.
“There was like a total of 5 helicopters that showed up, now literally a police motorcycle just went by us,” he said. “A couple of those have been going by but they haven’t told us anything.”
The overturned charter bus operated by Da Zhen Travel Agency was en route to San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino, according to Da Da Zhen travel consultant Anna Zhang.
The accident reportedly happen after a car cut in front of the bus, causing it to swerve into the embankment in an attempt to avoid a collision, Zhang said.
The company has only had minor fender-benders in the past, Zhang said.
“We’ve never had such a large accident before, the manager and owner are taking it very seriously, they’ve both gone to the scene of the accident to handle the situation,” Zhang said in Mandarin.
Roughly 40 people registered for the bus trip at $15 each, but the company does accept walk-ons at its stops, so the total number of passengers could be higher. The passengers are mostly local, but some came from out of the country, Zhang said.
The company’s bus department went to the scene to find out more information and so details are limited, she said. Multiple families have called in trying to find out what happened.
Da Zhen Travel Agency, based out of Monterey Park, operates charter buses for tours, said Zhang when reached by phone Thursday. A bus schedule from the casino shows 14 Da Zhen Travel buses traveling daily from Hacienda Heights, Monterey Park, Rosemead and San Gabriel to the casino.
The company had a “Satisfactory” safety rating from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in September of 2010, but exceeded the FMCSA intervention threshold based on roadside data, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation website. A safety report from the Department of Transportation shows that the company is authorized to carry passengers, traveling 598,399 miles in 2011. Da Zhen was the subject of 30 vehicle inspections and 36 driver inspections over the past 24 months and had not been in any reported crashes, the report shows. The company has a current $5,000,000 insurance policy through New York Marine and General Insurance Co. in New York.
- Reporters Zen Vuong, Jason Henry and Melissa Masatani contributed to this story.

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Walnut woman sentenced in Irwindale hit-and-run

POMONA — A Walnut woman was released from jail Wednesday following her sentencing for a hit-and-run crash in Irwindale that left an elderly Baldwin Park woman dead last year, officials said.Ashley Lopez, 22, was sentenced to 360 days jail time, which she was credit for due to time already served, along with five years of formal probation, Pomona Superior Court officials said.Lopez had been in custody since February after pleading no contest late last year to a count of felony hit-and-run following a Nov. 2 collision at Live Oak and Stewart avenues in Irwindale, according to officials and Los Angeles County booking records.Killed in the collision was 80-year-old Cu Lee Nguyen, who was crossing Live Oak Avenue when she was struck by Lopez’s eastbound car, according to Irwindale police. She died at the scene. Lopez was arrested Nov. 5 at her workplace in Irwindale after an investigation identified her as the driver of the car that struck Nguyen, police said.Police said she told investigators she fled the scene of the crash because she was afraid.

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Irwindale man suspected in Azusa school break-in

AZUSA — An Irwindale man was behind bars Sunday after a break-in at Valleydale Elementary School, police said.
Martin Daniel Rosales, 30, was booked on suspicion of Saturday’s 9:30 p.m. burglary at the school, 700 South Lark Ellen Ave., according to Azusa police Acting Sgt. Andy Rodriguez said.
“A citizen observed a subject enter a classroom at Valleydale School through a window,” Rodriguez said in a written statement. “Azusa officers responded to the school and detained Martin Rosales as he left the school grounds.”
Food items believed to have been stolen from the classroom were found discarded nearby, Sgt. Andy Sutcliffe added.
According to county booking records, Rosales was being held in lieu of $20,000 bail pending a scheduled arraignment Tuesday in West Covina Superior Court.

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UPDATED: Boy flown to hospital after being struck by car driven by off-duty police sergeant in Irwindale

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IRWINDALE — Rescuers rushed a young boy to a trauma center Thursday after he was struck by a car driven by an off-duty Irwindale police sergeant while riding his scooter across the street, officials said.
The incident took place about 7 p.m. on Calle Del Norte, just east of Irwindale Avenue, according to Los Angeles County Fire Department and California Highway Patrol officials.
The boy, who appeared to be about 7 years old, was flown by helicopter to a hospital in unknown condition, though he was conscious and breathing, CHP Officer Joshua Duran said. The injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.
The boy, who lives across the street from Irwindale Park, was riding his electric Razor scooter southbound across Calle Del Norte to meet his family, which was already at the park for an evening concert, the officer said.
After leaving the driveway, he was struck by a westbound Lexus GS 300, Duran said. It was being driven by an off-duty Irwindale police sergeant who was on his way to work at the police station about half a block away from the scene of the crash.
The impact threw the boy about 20 feet, officials said.
His injuries could have been worse, Duran added. “From what I understand, he was wearing a helmet.”
The investigation remained in it’s early stages, however it initially appeared the Lexus was traveling within the speed limit of 25 mph when it struck the boy, Duran added. The name of the police sergeant at the wheel was not released.
The cause of the crash was being investigated by officers from the Baldwin Park office of the CHP.

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300 marijuana plants seized, three suspects arrested in Irwindale

IRWINDALE — Police discovered over 300 marijuana plants with an estimated value of $375,000 growing in a warehouse and arrested three men, officials announced Wednesday.
Investigators also seized a large amount of marijuana, cash, cultivation equipment and a firearm, according to acting Irwindale Police Chief
George Zendejas.
The incident began at 3:48 p.m. Tuesday when a patrol officer checked an unoccupied vehicle in a parking lot at 851 Meridian Street, discovered the registration expired more than six months ago and impounded it.
“While completing the storage, he discovered a large amount of marijuana inside the vehicle and evidence of a marijuana growing operation,” Zendejas said.
He said detectives served a search warrant at the warehouse on Meridian Street and found a marijuana growing operation. Three men inside the warehouse were arrested.
Kenneth Charles Severs, 31, of Rancho Cucamonga was arrested on suspicion of possessing marijuana for sales while Jarred Edward Knuth, 32, of La Habra and Ryan Eugene Knuth, 35, of Brea, were arrested on suspicion of cultivating marijuana.
Booking records the three men were booked at Glendora Police jail and released Wednesday morning. It wasn’t clear if they are out on bail.

- Ruby Gonzales

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