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Signal change questioned

City: Attorney for woman involved in fatal July 4th crash said he was investigating why left-hand tu

Posted: May 17, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 17, 2011 1:55 a.m.

The intersection that was the scene of a deadly Independence Day crash after a driver tried to make a left turn now features an enhanced left-turn signal.

The city of Santa Clarita said plans were in motion well before last year’s crash to change the signal.

But an attorney defending the Canyon Country woman accused of causing the crash that left a Newhall woman dead said the old traffic signal controlling the intersection may have played a role in the crash.

The intersection at Mall Entrance and Valencia Boulevard is now controlled with two full-time, protected left-turn lanes.
The traffic patterns at the intersection were changed last month. Signs posted on traffic lights at the intersection notifying motorists of the change were installed on April 22, city spokeswoman Gail Ortiz said in an email.

The move was planned before the fatal collision, city attorney Joe Montes said Monday.

“It was a project that was in the works for some time and is separate and apart from the July 4th incident,” Montes said.
Thousands of bystanders crowded Valencia Boulevard that night to watch a fireworks show at Westfield Valencia Town Center. An Infiniti sedan crashed into an SUV that was attempting to make a left-hand turn into the Kohl’s shopping
center. The sedan was launched into the crowd.

Matilde Garnica, 43, was killed instantly. Seven others were injured.

Attorneys representing Garnica’s family filed various claims against the city. They have all been denied, Montes said. No lawsuits against the city have been filed or served by the family, he said.

Detectives investigating the case have said they recovered video shot from witnesses that show Melissa Brown, 23, driving through a red light at the intersection of Mall Entrance and Valencia Boulevard. But witnesses’ statements have been conflicting, Brown’s attorney David Kestenbaum said.

Eyewitnesses aren’t in agreement over whether the intersection’s traffic lights were solid red, blinking red, or yellow during the crash, Kestenbaum said.

Kestenbaum said he was investigating why the signal was changed.

Earlier this year, Brown pleaded not guilty to one felony count of vehicular manslaughter. Her attorney has said the other driver caused the crash.

Brown is scheduled to appear for a hearing in San Fernando Superior Court on May 25.

Brown could face up to six years in prison if convicted, according to the criminal complaint filed with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.


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