Nightly closures of 5 Freeway begin in Santa Fe Springs, Norwalk

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SANTA FE SPRINGS >> Caltrans is kicking off three weeks of overnight closures of both directions of the 5 Freeway in Santa Fe Springs and Norwalk Friday as crews demolish the old Carmenita Road Bridge as part of an ongoing construction project, officials said.
0711_NWS_WDN-L-BRIDGE2The entire 5 Freeway between Valley View Avenue in Santa Fe Springs and Rosecrans Avenue in Norwalk will be closed from midnight to 5 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays, as well as from 11 p.m. Fridays to 7 a.m. Saturdays, Caltrans officials said in a written statement.
The closure will allow workers to demolish the old two-lane Carmenita Road bridge spanning the freeway, officials said.
The new 10-lane bridge was opened to traffic on July 3, although until new ramps are constructed, only four lanes are accessible in each direction.
0711_NWS_WDN-L-BRIDGE4The westbound 91 Freeway connector to the northbound 5 Freeway will also be shut down nighty between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., as well as the southbound 605 Freeway connector to the southbound 5 Freeway.
The construction project will widen the 5 Freeway between Alondra Avenue and Shoemaker Avenue with an additional carpool lane and an additional general use lane in each direction. The shoulders are also being widened, and a center median built.
For more information, visit www.my5la.com/carmenita-road-interchange.

PHOTOS courtesy of Caltrans

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Bumble Bee Foods, 2 workers deny charges in death of worker trapped in oven at Santa Fe Springs plant

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SANTA FE SPRINGS >> Tuna manufacturer Bumble Bee Foods LLC, an employee and a former employee pleaded not guilty Wednesday to felony charges related to the death of a worker who was cooked to death inside an industrial oven at the company’s Santa Fe Springs plant, authorities said.
Bumble Bee Foods LLC, along with former safety manager Saul Florez, 47, of Whittier and director of plant operations Angel Rodriguez, 63, were each charged last month with three felony counts of willful violation of safety rules in connection with the Oct. 11, 2012 industrial mishap at the plant, 13100 Arctic Circle.
Killed was 62-year-old father of six Jose Melena of Wilmington, who became trapped and cooked to death in a massive industrial oven used to sterilize cans of tuna, officials said.
Melena was working inside the cylindrical, 35-foot-long oven when another employee assumed Melena had gone to the restroom, according to OSHA’s report.
“Coworkers were unaware that Melena was inside the oven when they loaded multiple carts, collectively containing about 12,000 pounds of tuna, closed the front door and started the oven,” Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said in a written statement. “The victim inadvertently became trapped in the back of the super-heated, pressurized steam cooker.”
AR-150429454Hours later, after the oven had been heated to more than 270 degrees, coworkers noticed Melena was missing and ultimately discovered his badly burned remains inside the oven, officials said.
The defendants are due back in Los Angeles Superior Court July 14 for a motions hearing, district attorney’s Office spokesman Greg Risling said.
The California Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Occupational Safety and Health levied nearly $74,000 in fines against Bubble Bee Foods for safety violations the following year.
If convicted as charged, Florez and Rodriguez each face up to three years in prison, as well as fines of up to $250,000. San Diego-based Bumble Bee Foods could face a fine of up to $1.5 million.

PHOTOS: [TOP] – Jose Melena, 62, of Wilmington was a Bumble Bee Foods workerkilled in when he accidentally became trapped inside an industrial oven at the company’s Santa Fe Springs plant on Oct. 11, 2014. (Courtesy) [BELOW] – The front of Bumble Bee Foods LLC in Santa Fe Springs on Friday October 12, 2012. The plant was the site of an insustrial accident the day before in which a 62-year-old employee died after becoming trapped inside an industrial oven.
(File: SGVN/Staff Photo by Keth Durflinger)

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UPDATED: Man fatally struck by SUV in in Santa Fe Springs; driver arrested

SANTA FE SPRINGS >> Police arrested a driver Saturday after his SUV struck and killed a Whittier man in a crosswalk, authorities said.
Los Angeles county coroner’s officials identified the victim as 62-year-old Michael Ray Stilwell of Whittier.
He was walking north across Washington boulevard within a crosswalk about 9:45 a.m. when he was struck by a Mitsubishi Montero making a left turn from southbound Broadway to eastbound Washington Boulevard, Whittier police Lt. Aaron Ruiz said. Paramedics pronounced Stilwell dead at the scene.
Ruiz said the driver of the SUV remained at the scene.
About three hours after the collision, traffic investigators arrested Rogelio Garcia, 50, on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence, according to police and Los Angeles County booking records. Intoxicated driving was not initially suspected.
According to county booking records, Garcia was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail at the Whittier Police Department jail pending his initial court appearance.

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Whittier man arrested following Santa Fe Springs motel robbery

SANTA FE SPRINGS >> Police arrested a man Thursday after he robbed a Firestone Boulevard motel, officials said.
Jason James Santoorjian, 29, of Whittier was jailed on suspicion of robbery, Whittier police Officer John Scoggins said.
The crime took place about 11:30 a.m. at a motel in the 13400 block of Firestone Boulevard, police officials said.
Shortly after robbing the motel, deputies a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department helicopter spotted the suspect near what was ultimately determined to be his car in the parking lot of a business several blocks away, Scoggins said. Officers arrested Santoorjian in connection with the reported robbery.
Inside Santoorjian’s car, police found an “airsoft” BB gun believed to have been used in the heist, along with cash believed to have been stolen during the crime, Scoggins said.
Santoorjian was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, records show.

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Man shot to death in Santa Fe Springs

SANTA FE SPRINGS >> A man died after a confrontation escalated into gunfire late Wednesday, police said.
The fatal shooting took place just before 7 p.m. in the 9900 block of Painter Avenue, near Barton Circle, Whittier police Lt. Bryan Ellis said.
The victim, described as a Whittier man in his 20s, died at the scene, the lieutenant said. His name was not released pending notification of family.
He was walking north along Painter Avenue when a silver compact car came to a stop near him, Ellis said.
A passenger exited the car and began arguing with the victim, he said. The argument turned into a fight.
“The suspect pulled out a handgun and fired numerous times, striking the victim,” Ellis said.
The killer then got back into the car, which sped off, he said.

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Man accused of series of arson fires in Whittier, Santa Fe Springs

SANTA FE SPRINGS >> A homeless man accused of setting at least four fires in Whittier and Santa Fe Springs over the weekend
pleaded not guilty Wednesday to four counts of arson, authorities said.
Police arrested Jesse Jesus Provencio, 27, Monday in connection with an arson fire reported the previous day in front of a Santa Fe Springs business, according to Whittier police officials and Los Angeles County booking records. He was described as a transient known to frequent the Santa Fe Springs area.
He’s accused with igniting four arson fires in all Sunday, scorching trees and brush but no structures, according to police and Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials.
Police and firefighters responded shortly before 11:15 a.m. Sunday to a report of a palm tree on fire in the 11900 block of Burke Street, Whittier police said in a written statement.
“Upon arrival, officers found a palm tree to the front of a local business fully engulfed in flames,” according to the police statement. Santa Fe Springs firefighters quickly doused the flames.
“The business was closed at the time and there were no injuries reported,” according to the statement. The fire caused an estimated $300 worth of damage.
The suspect was gone when officials arrived, police said. But detectives obtained surveillance camera footage which had captured the image of the alleged arsonist. The description was distributed to patrol officers.
Officers spotted a man matching the description near the scene of the Burke Street fire just before 11 a.m. Monday and arrested him, police said. The suspect, later identified as Provencio, was arrested on suspicion of arson.
Investigators soon linked Provencio to at least three additional fires that occurred the same day.
In addition to the fire in the 11900 block of Burke Avenue, prosecutors also charged Provencio with lighting another small arson fire in the 11800 block of Burke Street in Santa Fe Springs, and two in the 11800 block of Grande Vista Avenue in Whittier, according to a felony complaint filed against him.
Investigators continued working to try to connect Provencio to other recent suspected arson fired, including one Saturday in the 11800 block of Washington Boulevard, near the 605 Freeway, in which eight palm trees were scorches, Scoggins said.
The officer added that is was fortunate the suspect was captured before the series of fires resulted in more serious property damage or injury.
While a motive for the alleged arsons was unclear, Scoggins said there was no indication Provencio harbored an particular animosity toward the business in front of which he lit the fire.
According to county booking records, Provencio was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail. He was scheduled to appear in Norwalk Superior Court Feb. 4 for a preliminary hearing setting, district attorney’s office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.

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Man shot to death in Santa Fe Springs


SANTA FE SPRINGS >> A man died at the scene of a shooting in a residential neighborhood in Santa Fe Springs Sunday night, officials said.
Police discovered the victim lying on the ground near a bicycle about 9:15 p.m. while responding to a report of gunshots in the 9300 block of Millergrove Drive, Whittier police Officer Brad White said.
The man, who was estimated to be in his mid-40s to early-50s, died at the scene, White said.
He was believed to be either riding or walking the bicycle north on Millergrove Drive when he was shot, the officer said.
No suspect description or further details were available.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Whittier Police Department at 562-567-9200.

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Man denies charges in fatal Santa Fe Springs Swap Meet stabbing

SANTA FE SPRINGS >> The second of two defendants denied murder and assault charges in connection with the fatal stabbing of a La Mirada woman during a fight over a parking space at the Santa Fe Springs Swap Meet last month, officials said.
Reggie Cervantes, 22, of South Los Angeles pleaded not guilty to one count of murder and one count of assault with a deadly weapon for the Oct. 17 stabbing in the parking lot of the swap meet at 13963 Alondra Boulevard, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
Cervantes is additionally accused of the special allegation that he personally wielded a knife in the crime, officials said.
Cervantes’ co-defendant Brenda Jasmine Rangel, 19, of South Los Angeles pleaded not guilty to murder and assault charges Oct. 21 in Norwalk Superior Court.
The two suspects are accused of fatally stabbing 43-year-old Elizabeth Yanez of La Mirada during a dispute over a parking space about 9;30 p.m., Whittier police officials said.
Yanez was in a vehicle with her two adult children when she got into an argument with Cervantes and Rangel, who were in another car, police and district attorney’s officials said.
“At some point, Cervantes exited his car and attempted to stab Yanez’s son, but was unsuccessful,” according to the district attorney’s office statement. “Cervantes then allegedly walked over to Yanez and stabbed her,”
Yanez succumbed to her injuries at an area hospital.
Investigators found and arrested Cervantes and Rangel in connection with the fatal stabbing the following morning at a South Los Angeles apartment, according to Whittier police Lt. Kent Miller said.
Prosecutors said Cervantes was previously convicted of robbery in 2009 and receiving stolen property in 2010.
Both face up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted as charged, officials said.
Cervantes and Rangel were being held in lieu of $1 million bail pending trial, according to booking records. They were scheduled to return to court Dec. 15 for a preliminary hearing.

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UPDATED: La Mirada woman killed in weekend stabbing at Santa Fe Springs Swap Meet

SANTA FE SPRINGS >> A La Mirada woman died after she was stabbed in front of her adult children during a dispute over a parking space at the Santa Fe Springs Swap Meet late Friday, Whittier police officials announced Thursday.
A man and woman face murder charges in connection with the stabbing, which took place about 9:30 p.m Friday. at the swap meet, 13963 Alondra Boulevard, Whittier Police Department officials said in a written statement.
Elizabeth Yanez, 43, died at the hospital shortly after the stabbing, police said.
Police found and arrested Reggie Cervantes, 22, and Brenda Jasmine Rangel, 19, both of South Los Angeles, in connection with fatal stabbing early Saturday in South Los Angeles, according to police and Los Angeles County booking records.
Prosecutors filed murder charges against both suspects Tuesday, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
Whittier police officers, who provide police service for Santa Fe Springs, first responded to the swap meet after receiving a report of a fight in the parking lot, Whittier police officials said.
“When officers arrived, they located a female victim lying on the ground with multiple stab wounds to her neck and back,” according to the statement. Police rendered first aid to the woman, who was taken to the University of California, Irvine Medical Center. She succumbed to her injuries a short time later.
“As the investigation developed, it was determined that she had been stabbed by a male and female over a dispute involving a parking space within the lot,” the police statement said. The woman’s 22- and 23-year-old children were present during the incident.
Investigators identified a possible suspect vehicle and two potential suspects, who were tracked to South Los Angeles, Whittier police Lt. Kent Miller said.
Cervantes and Rangel were arrested as they were exiting an apartment shortly before 9 a.m. Saturday, according to police and county booking records.
The weapon used in the stabbing remained outstanding Thursday, Miller said. It was unclear what type of stabbing implement was used.
Police did not disclose the stabbing or the arrest until Thursday, two days after charges were filed against the suspects.
Yanez’s mother, Sally Yanez, said the family was still in shock over the sudden tragedy.
“It’s beyond senseless,” she said. “It’s beyond words.”
“In just the blink of an eye, everything’s changed,” Sally Yanez said.
Elizabeth Yanez’s granddaughter was treated for minor injuries following the incident, Sally Yanez said. Her grandson was struck in the head, but did not go to a hospital.
The 43-year-old woman was a dedicated mother who spent a lot of time with her children, her mother said. “She really based everything around them.”
Elizabeth Yanez grew up in South Gate before moving to La Mirada in 1987, Sally Yanez said. She graduated Sunny Hills High School in Fullerton in 1988. She worked in accounting at an Orange County construction company.
“She had a terrific personality, a terrific sense of humor. She was just a force to be reckoned with,” her mother said.
“She loved her Dodgers. She was a die-hard Dodger fan.”
Elizabeth Yanez is survived by her parents, Sally and Larry, her children, 22-year-old Renee Crable and 23-year-old Daniel Crable, and the children’s father, Donnie Crable, who lives out-of-state.
Services were yet to be scheduled.
Prosecutors charged Cervantes and Rangel each with murder and assault with a deadly weapon Tuesday in Norwalk Superior Court, Ardalani said.
Prosecutors also allege that Cervantes personally used a knife in the commission of the crime, and that he has prior felony convictions for robbery and receiving stolen property, according to the felony complaint filed against him and Rangel.
Rangel pleaded not guilty to all charges Tuesday and was ordered back to court Oct. 29 for preliminary hearing, Ardalani said. Cervantes entered no plea Tuesday. His arraignment was postponed until Nov. 20.
Cervantes and Rangel were being held in lieu of $1 million bail each.

 

 

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UPDATED: Explosive 4-alarm fire tears through three Santa Fe Springs businesses

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SANTA FE SPRINGS >> A massive fire fueled by exploding drums of flammable chemicals destroyed three businesses, comprised of five buildings, in Santa Fe Springs Saturday.
A paint company, an epoxy coating company and a machine shop were involved in the four-alarm fire, which broke out about 4:10 p.m. in the 12800 block of Sunshine Avenue, Santa Fe Springs Fire Department Chief Mike Crook said.
Heavy black smoke and flames poured from the building when firefighters arrived, the chief said. Soon after firefighters began pouring water on the flames, 55-gallon drums full of flammable chemicals began exploding, Crook said.
“They started with a pretty aggressive attack,” he said. “Drums were exploding, they were taking off into the air. They pulled back, had to go defensive.”
The drums were both inside and outside several of the burning buildings.
Firefighters from the Los Angeles County, Downey, Compton and Vernon fire departments helped Santa Fe Springs firefighters douse the blaze for more than four hours before it was declared knocked down. Firefighters expected to remain at the scene handling smoldering hot spots into the early morning hours Sunday.
Hazardous materials crews were on-hand to monitor potential hazards, Crook said. No chemicals were detected at dangerous levels in either the air surrounding the perimeter of the fire or the water flowing away from it.
The fire was believed to have originated inside epoxy coating company B.D. Classic Enterprises, Crook said. It was first reported by a custodian working in the business park.
Crook said the fire then spread to the neighboring Life Paint Co. and Robert’s Honing and Gundrilling Inc.
Police shut down nearby streets as firefighters handled the massive fire, Whittier police Lt. Bryan Ellis said.
All three involved businesses were closed at the time the fire broke out, Crook said.
The neighboring businesses were all largely empty, and No evacuations were ordered during the fire, according to Downey Fire Department dispatchers. No injuries were reported to civilians or firefighters.
Though the building were largely destroyed, firefighters worked hard to protect the businesses’ important documents, Crook said. “The guys did a great job of protecting the offices and the records.”
The investigation into the cause of the fire remained in its early stages. A dollar-value estimate of the damage was not available late Saturday.

PHOTO by Mike Mullen

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