Santa Paula Times

Council approves letter be sent to CHP seeking heightened Hwy 126 patrols

August 24, 2001
Santa Paula City Council
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesThe City Council agreed with a councilman’s suggestion that the California Highway Patrol be asked to beef up patrolling Highway 126 after a recent series of fatal accidents.City Councilman Rick Cook said at the August 20 meeting that a letter signed by Mayor Don Johnson should be sent to the CHP to seek the authorization of overtime for more patrolling of Highway 126 from the 101 (Ventura) Freeway interchange through Hallock Drive just east of Santa Paula.“There have been so many fatal accidents recently; we even lost two children,” said Cook. “Before there’s another fatality I hope we get some action, at least a response,” to the request.Cook said those that travel to the 101 early in the morning hit traffic that slows down vehicles “bumper to bumper, but this freeway [Highway 126] sees more speed, even when congested, but you never see an officer. We’ve got to get more enforcement out there, more protection,” that could stretch to Fillmore. “The CHP has an airplane, radar. . .a little bit of prevention could go a long ways.”Ken Chapman, a rancher with Highway 126 frontage property, said during public comment that not only does he support Cook’s idea, but the “last couple of days I was tempted to contact them [CHP] myself,” about dangerous traffic conditions.
Four people lost their lives on a short stretch of Highway 126 between July 26 and August 12: the latest accident killed a 24-year-old Ventura woman, Monet Marie Bear, when her car burst into flames after it drifted off the roadway and into a culvert near the Sycamore Road exit.On July 30, Maria Bernal, 30 of Fillmore, was forced off the highway near 10th Street and lost control; two-year-old Marlene Bernal died several hours later and her brother, 5-year-old Bryan Bernal, remained on life-support until he died the next day.On July 26, Robin McDonald-Gwaltney, 46 of Oxnard, was struck by an alleged drunk driver while she stood on the highway shoulder near Briggs Road helping her son, Jason McMillan, 20. McMillan’s vehicle had broken down on the way to his wedding rehearsal at Church of the Angels Chapel in Santa Paula; he received major injuries in the accident. Sergio Casas, 36 of Fillmore, was arrested for suspicion of DUI and felony gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.Cook said at the Aug. 20 council meeting that he wants the letter urging more CHP patrolling on Highway 126 sent out “the sooner the better is the way I look at it. . .”