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Nov 1, 2014 5:38 AM

Driver sought in crash that killed 3 on Halloween

The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) Authorities on Saturday tracked the owner of an SUV suspected of being used in a Halloween night hit-and-run that killed three teenage girls to a Southern California home, only to find someone else living there.

The black Honda had not been reported stolen. Detectives set about the task of trying to determine where the owner was and who was driving when the vehicle traveling at high speed hit the girls, including twin sisters, who were out for a night of trick-or-treating.

The SUV was abandoned a short distance away. Police were seeking two men from an SUV that hit the girls, police Chief Carlos Rojas said at a media briefing.

"At this point, we don't know where the registered owner lives," said Santa Ana Police Department spokesman Anthony Bertagna.

Dressed in costumes and carrying candy bags, the 13-year-old girls were in a crosswalk near an elementary school in Santa Ana when the SUV with two men inside hit them about 6:45 p.m. Friday, police and fire officials said.

Two of them were declared dead immediately, and a third died as paramedics prepared to take her to a hospital, Orange County fire Capt. Steve Concialdi said. Their names were not immediately released.

The front of the vehicle was heavily damaged, Bertagna said. Authorities are seeking video surveillance footage from nearby property owners while interviewing witnesses. Investigators also collected evidence from the SUV, including fingerprints and DNA samples, he said.

"It was Halloween. There were a lot of people out there," Bertagna said. "These guys fled this car. Did they call somebody to pick them up? Did they live in the neighborhood? Did they run into a house?"

Sharon Stewart, who cuts hair at a nearby barber shop, told the Los Angeles Times she was eating outside when she heard what sounded "like a terrible crash. A couple of thumps. Then I heard screaming. I turned, and I saw a car leaving and people yelling. So I thought, 'It's a hit-and-run.' "

The vehicle passed her, so she got in her car and followed, she said. Stewart saw a young man run from the scene and heard him yelling at what she thought was his companion.

"I only saw one guy, but I know there was somebody else," she said.

Maria Ramirez, 14, who lives about a half block from where the hit-and-run occurred, told the Orange County Register that she attended middle school with the twins. She last saw them at school Friday, she said.

"I can't believe it happened," Ramirez said of the deaths of her friends, while she gathered late Friday night on the sidewalk with dozens of onlookers. "They were fun, good girls."

Santa Ana is about 30 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles.

Also Friday night, authorities in Washington state said two 7-year-old girls and a 20-year-old woman sustained life-threatening injuries when they were hit by a car while trick-or-treating in Vancouver.

The Columbian reported that police said a car jumped a curb and hit the trio.

A 33-year-old woman with them and the car's 47-year-old driver, who remained at the scene, had less serious injuries.

In New York state, a 3-year-old boy was killed and a 16-year-old girl was seriously injured Friday night when they were hit by a car while trick-or-treating. The car struck the children as they crossing a two-lane road in Greece about 9:40 p.m., police said. They said the driver is cooperating in the investigation and has not been charged.

A 2-year-old in Florida trick-or-treating with a group died when he was hit by a bus Friday evening. He was in a stroller with two other children when the adult pushing them across a street realized he had dropped his cellphone. The man stopped the stroller in the median and told the children to stay while he retrieved the phone. The child got out of the stroller and was hit by a driver who did not see him in the street, authorities said.


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