Connor Penhall, 21, son of television show “CHiPs” star Bruce Penhall, was killed in a Baldwin Park car accident after a suspected drunk driver plowed into him as he was working with a construction crew on the 10 Freeway. According to a report in the Los Angeles Daily News, the fatal DUI collision occurred on the 10 Freeway at Francisquito Avenue, the night of April 4, 2012. Officials say Penhall, was operating machinery at the location when Tatsuhiko Sakamoto, 37, drove his Toyota RAV4 into the coned-off area and crashed into Penhall. He was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash. Sakamoto was booked on suspicion of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, felony DUI and driving without a license.
My heartfelt condolences go out to the family and friends of Connor Penhall following this devastating car accident. The younger Penhall was also apparently following in his father’s footsteps and gaining recognition in the motocross community. Tragic! Please keep this grieving family in your thoughts and prayers.
Los Angeles Drunk Driving Statistics
According to California Highway Patrol’s 2009 Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS), 83 fatalities and 2,218 injuries occurred due to DUI collisions in the city of Los Angeles. Countywide, 204 people were killed and 4,672 were injured in alcohol-related crashes, during that same year. According to Caltrans, over the last decade, the number of people killed in highway work zones has increased by 45 percent.
California DUI Laws
Based on the news article, Sakamoto drove through cones and signs into the work zone while he was under the influence of alcohol. Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is illegal under California Vehicle Code Section 23152 (a). A driver whose act of driving under the influence results in the death of another will likely face vehicular manslaughter charges.
California Penal Code Section 191.5 (a) states: “Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought, in the driving of a vehicle, where the driving was in violation of Section 23140, 23152, or 23153 of the Vehicle Code, and the killing was either the proximate result of the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, and with gross negligence, or the proximate result of the commission of a lawful act that might produce death, in an unlawful manner, and with gross negligence.”
In such cases, a motorist who operates his or her vehicle while under the influence, in addition to facing criminal charges, can also be held civilly liable for the victim’s wrongful death. Family members of a deceased victim can file a wrongful death claim seeking compensation for damages including medical expenses, funeral costs and lost future income. If the victim was on-the-job at the time of the death, his or her family may also seek workers compensation benefits from the employer. An experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyer will be able to better advise the family here about their legal rights and options.