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Two killed, four others hospitalized in Lodi crash

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Posted: Tuesday, December 28, 2004 10:00 pm

Two Sacramento residents were killed and four others were taken to hospitals Tuesday after a 1990 Honda Accord crashed through a fence off Highway 99 and flipped upside down into a drainage ditch filled with water, the California Highway Patrol said.

A 14-year-old boy was killed at the scene, and a 39-year-old woman died later in the day at Lodi Memorial Hospital. As of this morning, their identities had not been released by the San Joaquin County Coroner's Office.

The accident took place at about 12:50 p.m. Tuesday, when Pao Choua Lee, 39, heading north on rain-slicked Highway 99 between the Kettleman Lane and Victor Road exits, drove into the center divider, then across both northbound lanes and through a fence east of the freeway, the California Highway Patrol said in a report.

The car flipped upside down and landed in a drainage ditch, the CHP said. A witness estimated that the ditch had 4 feet of water.

Lee was transported to Lodi Memorial Hospital with minor injuries, a 9-year-old girl was taken to a Sacramento hospital with unknown injuries, a 6-year-old girl was taken to San Joaquin County Hospital in French Camp after complaining of pain and a 6-month-old girl was taken to Dameron Hospital in Stockton, the CHP said. The infant suffered no injuries, the report said.

Rob Hormel, manager of the Lodi office of Premier Pools and Spas, across the street from where the car landed, said he and two other men decided to take matters into their own hands to see what they could do to rescue the other victims before police and firefighters arrived.

The boy who died at the scene was submerged under the water that had flooded the car before police and firefighters arrived, Hormel said.

"He could have drowned," he said.

The infant was crying, but otherwise doing well while being suspended upside down in a car seat above the water that filled the top of the car, Hormel said.

"If that isn't a testimonial to car seats," he said.

Hormel and other witnesses said they didn't hear any noise when the car overturned and crashed.

"Smoke was coming off the engine," Hormel said. "There was a gentleman in the water. We just scaled the fence immediately."

Hormel and the two others climbed over the fence separating Beckman Road from the drainage ditch. It was hard to see inside the overturned car because the windows were fogged up, he said.

"We heard a baby crying; we heard a child crying," Hormel said. "Every door was jammed."

Doug Axley, who works at Marina Boat Sales at the southeast corner of Beckman Road and Industrial Way, said he loaned some tools to Hormel and the other pool employees to get the car opened and the windows shattered to get the victims out.

Hormel said he rushed to the scene because of training and civilian experience in rescuing people.

"If you have knowledge, you have responsibility," Hormel said, explaining why he didn't hesitate to rescue the victims from the car.

Hormel said he acted before firefighters arrived because he has friends who are firefighters, and has been involved in rescue efforts as a civilian and because he learned cardio-pulmonary resuscitation as a Boy Scout.

The CHP didn't release the names of any victims aside from Lee, the driver.

Lee was wearing a seat belt, and the baby was in a car seat, the CHP said. The woman who died and two other passengers were not wearing seat belts, the report said.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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