Pasadena: 3 killed, 5 injured in crash on Foothill Freeway

3 killed, 5 injured in crash on Foothill Freeway *

Pasadena Star-News
August 13, 2004

By Marshall Allen**, Gretchen Hoffman and Gene Maddaus*, *Staff Writers* *

Thursday, August 12, 2004 – PASADENA — Three women were killed and a
young boy was thrown onto the Gold Line tracks where his foot was
severed by a train after their SUV crashed on the Foothill (210) Freeway
on Thursday.

The 8-year-old boy, who also suffered serious head and chest injuries,
was taken to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center where he underwent
surgery and was in extremely critical condition, authorities said.

Two women were pronounced dead at the scene of “major injuries,’ said
California Highway Patrol spokesman Jon Samson. One woman suffered
cardiac arrest and later died at Huntington Hospital, he said.

The Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office identified the dead as Lena
Khodaverdian, 41, Alice Basmadjian, 82, and Hrepsimi Hadadjian, 77. All
eight occupants in the red 2003 Ford Expedition were from Pasadena.

Only two of them, including the driver, were wearing seat belts. Those
two suffered minor injuries. In all, five people were thrown from the SUV.

A 70-year-old woman suffered major injuries, including a broken leg and
head and chest trauma, and was taken to Huntington Memorial Hospital. A
77-year-old woman suffered cuts and scrapes and was taken to County-USC
Medical Center.

Investigators believe the driver drifted to the right and then swerved
to the left to avoid hitting another vehicle. The SUV flipped and
crashed into the center wall just after 10 a.m., near the Madre Street

The seven women were members of a women’s group at Armenian Brotherhood
Bible Church on Washington Boulevard in Pasadena.

Church secretary Azniv Ailanjian said the phone in the church office
rang all day after the accident. Members of the 400-person congregation
were confused and uncertain as they tried to confirm the names of the
dead and injured.

“We don’t have words,’ Ailanjian said. “We are just praying, for
families, for people involved; nothing more we can do.’

Friends and relatives of the victims gathered at Huntington Hospital
Thursday afternoon, trying on cell phones to track down the passengers
scattered among the two hospitals to find out who had survived and the
extent of the injuries.

Many weren’t sure of the conditions of their loved ones at the time.

“We get our hopes up, and then they go down,’ said Pasadena resident
Lena Garabedian, whose aunt was in the SUV and later confirmed dead. “We
all believe in Jesus, and that’s basically who we’re depending on right

The church group was traveling to Sante Fe Dam recreation area for a
picnic, family members and friends said.

Luther and Tina Sevajian are the registered owners of the SUV, according
to DMV officials, but it was not clear if they were in the vehicle. CHP
officers did not identify the injured passengers.

The boy named Timothy, according to church members was thrown over a
3-foot cement barrier and onto the Gold Line tracks that divide the
eastbound and westbound freeway lanes.

Trains pass at 12-minute intervals at that time of day, according to
officials from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. MTA officials
said the accident was unlike anything they had seen on any of the
agency’s four light-rail lines since the system began operating in 1990.

It is also the first serious accident in the one-year history of the
Gold Line.

The eastbound train was traveling about 50 mph and carrying 10
passengers as it rounded a curve approaching the accident scene, MTA
spokesman Jose Ubaldo said. The conductor slowed the train when he
spotted “unusual activity’ on the freeway, Ubaldo said.

Debris from the crash rained down on the tracks ahead. The conductor
spotted the child lying on the tracks and immediately slammed on the
emergency brake, Ubaldo said.

The train could not stop in time and came to rest atop the boy’s right

Lisa Derderian, spokeswoman for the Pasadena Fire Department, said it
was a terrible scene.

“We have a couple of firefighters who say it is the most horrific
accident they’ve seen in their long careers with the fire department,’
she said.

It appeared no other cars were involved in the crash, Samson said.

The train conductor was interviewed and taken for routine drug and
alcohol testing. Two of the 10 passengers on the train said they had
minor injuries, but did not seek the help of paramedics.

The Gold Line passengers were transferred to another train and taken
away from the scene.

Commuters on the eastern tip of the Gold Line experienced 20- to
30-minute delays. The eastbound segment of track between Allen Avenue
and Sierra Madre Villa remained closed through the afternoon, but all
other sections of the line stayed open.

Traffic was jammed for several miles behind the crash.

Two lanes of the freeway were opened to traffic two hours after the
accident, and it was opened fully about 4:45 p.m., Derderian said.

/Marshall Allen can be reached at (626) 578-6300, Ext. 4461, or by
e-mail at [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]> .
Gretchen Hoffman can be reached at Ext. 4494, or by e- mail at
[email protected] <mailto:[email protected]> . Gene
Maddaus can be reached at Ext. 4444, or by e-mail at
[email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>/.//

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS