BALDWIN PARK, California – Caltrans subcontractor Connor Penhall, 21, of Corona, was killed late Wednesday night after being struck by an alleged drunk driver in a Toyota Rav 4 SUV who had disregarded signs closing a section of the San Bernardino Interstate 10 freeway at Francisquito Avenue, according to California Highway Patrol report.
Tatsuhiko Sakamoto, 37, of Arcadia, attempted to flee the scene following the fatal crash, but police officers apprehended him and administered tests for alcohol. Sakamoto, who identified himself with a Hawaii driver’s license and a Honolulu address, was booked on charges of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, felony DUI and driving without a valid California driver’s license, police said.
Penhall, the son of former World Motorcycle Speedway Champion Bruce Penhall, was operating machinery on the westbound side of the freeway when he was struck by Sakamoto about 11:45 p.m. The impact of the SUV driving at an estimated 60 mph threw Penhall more than 50 feet and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
The freeway had closed for construction about 11 p.m. and workers had placed cones and signs to seal off the area to traffic. Police conducted a full investigation of the car accident and closed down westbound lanes completely until reopening them about 6:20 a.m., according to a CHP report.
Penhall’s father, World Motorcycle Speedway Champion Bruce Penhall, won championships in 1981 and 1982. Later he pursued acting and appeared in the television series CHIPs as Officer Bruce Nelson and various other TV series and films.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, in California, there were 791 of the 2,715 people killed in traffic accidents in 2010 are attributed to drunk drivers. Nationwide there were 10,228 deaths out of 32,885 total deaths attributed to alcohol impaired driving, a decrease of 4.9% from 2009.
Also, according to MADD, about a third of all drunk drivers arrested or convicted of DUI are repeat offenders. These drivers are about 40% more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than drivers without prior DUIs.
Fatal accidents caused by drunk drivers in California are taken seriously by law enforcement. Drunk drivers who kill others can be charged with (1) Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated (imprisonment in county jail for up to a year; or state prison for 16 months, 2 or 4 years; and not more than $10,000 fine. (2) Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated (Imprisonment in state prison for 4, 6, or 10 years and fine up to $10,000)
“Sadly despite efforts to crack down on drunk drivers there are still on our roadways injuring and killing innocent individuals,” said Attorney West Thomas, founder of the Thomas Law Firm. “This driver should face the maximum penalties provided under law for his crimes including felony hit and run.”
For roughly 30 years, the legal experts at Thomas Law Firm have represented hundreds of clients injured in serious traffic accidents. Our legal team has also handled hundreds of wrongful death claims for families of victims killed in traffic accidents. Indeed, the car accident law firm has a proven track record supported by settlements ranging from several thousand dollars to millions.
Thomas is a California Personal Injury Law Firm with a track record of proven results. There is no cost to clients until our experienced team of lawyers and legal professionals have won your case. Finding the best car accident attorney can mean you will get the settlement you need to get your life back on track. Compensation for your injuries, loss of wages and pain and suffering can’t take away the trauma of the accident, but it can help you rebuild your life.
Call us today at 1-855-ASK WEST to speak with our car accident law firm. Thomas Law Firm has offices in California including its headquarters in Irvine. We also have offices outside of Orange County to serve you in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, San Diego, Riverside and in Las Vegas, Nevada.