Memorial honors victims of fatal Uber crash

Wave Wire Services

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — A ghost tire memorial was placed Aug. 31 at the intersection where three young women riding in an Uber were killed in a high-speed crash in which the driver of a second vehicle was charged with three counts of vehicular manslaughter.

The memorial — three white tires, each with the name of one of the fatally injured victims — was placed by Streets Are For Everyone, a nonprofit traffic-safety advocacy group which seeks to end traffic-caused fatalities, and Faith for SAFE Streets, the faith-based coalition formed by the group which focuses on the hardest-hit areas of South Los Angeles.

Gregory Black, 31, is accused in the crash that occurred about 5:25 a.m. Aug. 26 at Vermont Avenue and Century Boulevard, several blocks west of the Harbor (110) Freeway.

According to police, Black was driving a Mercedes-Benz north on Vermont Avenue at speeds possibly approaching 90 miles an hour when he ran a red light and broadsided an Uber vehicle, a Honda, that was heading westbound on Century Boulevard. The suspect’s car spun out and came to rest in the center median.

Black suffered non-life-threatening injuries and was taken to a hospital and later arrested.

Killed in the crash were 23-year-old Juvelyn Arroyo, of San Juan Capistrano; 23-year-old Veronica Amezola, of Santa Ana; and 27-year-old Kimberly Izquierdo, also of Santa Ana. All of them were passengers in the Uber vehicle.

Izquierdo and Amezola were sisters, and they had both been friends with Arroyo since childhood, relatives wrote on GoFundMe pages established on behalf of both families.

The Uber driver — a 38-year-old woman — and a male passenger suffered lesser injuries in the crash, authorities said.

Black has been charged with three counts of vehicular manslaughter, according to police and court records. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment at the Compton Courthouse Aug. 29. He remains jailed in lieu of $4 million bail, according to jail records.

At a news conference Aug. 30, Los Angeles Police Department Detective Ryan Moreno said the investigation into the crash was continuing, and it was unclear if drugs or alcohol factored into the collision. But he said Black is a known gang member with 11 prior arrests and three convictions, and he was serving five years probation at the time of the crash, stemming from a 2020 murder case in which he was involved.

Moreno said he is committed to ensuring that people who speed and cause fatal traffic collisions will go to prison.

“It doesn’t bring back the victims,” he said. “These families are suffering right now. One of the families, they’re preparing for two funerals, you know, both of their daughters.”

Moreno said the crash scene was “just horrible.”

“To just walk around and see that many casualties, it looked like a bomb went off,” Moreno said.

Moreno said there has been a spate of speed-related crashes in the area in recent weeks, saying there have been 70 traffic-related fatalities within the LAPD’s South Traffic Division this year.

The memorials that were placed featured tires painted white, and the groups organizing the event highlighted the need to rein in speeding by re-engineering streets to force drivers to drive at safer speeds, as well as calling on the state Legislature to pass Assembly Bill 645 which would create a pilot program in six California cities to install speed cameras, with a priority around schools, high-injury networks and known street racing corridors.

According to Damian Kevitt, executive director of Streets Are For Everyone, speed cameras are used in more than 150 other cities across the nation and have a proven track record of reducing crashes and fatalities. AB 645 is awaiting review in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“This shouldn’t happen. Those lives shouldn’t have been lost,” Kevitt told KCAL9 after the memorial was unveiled. “So it pains me, but at the same time it makes me want to do and work so much harder to demand that our roads be made safer.”

According to Kevitt’s organization, Los Angeles saw a record 312 fatalities in 2022 — and speed has been the single-largest factor in traffic collisions every year since before 2011.

As of Aug. 12, there have been 194 fatalities this year, the group said, quoting LAPD data.

Meanwhile, the GoFundMe page set up on behalf of Arroyo’s family had raised more than $14,000. A page on behalf of Izquierdo and Amezola’s family had raised more than $34,000.

Family members said the group had attended a concert in South Los Angeles and were on their way home when the crash occurred.

“Kimberly (Izquierdo) and Vero (Amezola) were both bright and full of life, with so much more life to live and gave so much love through their kindness, intelligence, compassion, and joy,” according to the GoFundMe page.

“Kimberly had just graduated from nursing school and was achieving her goals of moving up in the medical field. She is an intelligent and dedicated student and was also involved in her dance team during her time at Cal State Dominguez Hills.

“Veronica was a bright student who graduated from Cal Poly Humboldt. She spent her time doing field research amongst the Redwoods and was interested in environmental science. She recently got a job with the County of Orange working with animals and was looking forward to the start of a bright future.”

       
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