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Services Held for Victims of Canyon Collision

Irvine police investigator Allyson Maddy assists with the Laguna Canyon collision investigation, which resumed this past Tuesday at the scene of last week's fatalities. Photo by Mitch Ridder

Irvine police investigator Allyson Maddy assists with the Laguna Canyon collision investigation, which resumed this past Tuesday at the scene of last week’s fatalities. Photo by Mitch Ridder

Separate services were held for two victims of a head-on collision in Laguna Beach last week even as investigators returned to the accident scene on Laguna Canyon Road to collect more information.

Police are still finalizing reports establishing what happened immediately preceding the wreck and have yet to take any legal action against the drivers of the two other vehicles involved in the 6:41 a.m. collision on Tuesday, April 2. Both drivers have been interviewed, according to Laguna police Sgt. Louise Callus.

A mass was held this past Tuesday at Santa Ana’s Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish for Alberto Casique-Salinas, 47, of Anaheim, the driver of the car. A prayer to Jude the Apostle, the Roman Catholic saint of desperate cases and lost causes, accompanied an announcement of the mass.

His family has retained Martinian & Associates, Los Angeles attorneys that specialize in catastrophic injuries and wrongful deaths, said law clerk Alex Djarbekian. “We’re conducting our own investigation,” he said, declining to provide any details about Salinas’ immediate family.

A visitation for his passenger, Armando Garcia Gonzales, 38, of Santa Ana, was held Thursday at Santa Ana’s Family Mortuary, director Tony Murcia said.

A collection was also started in Laguna Beach on behalf of their survivors.

“These were good-working, sweet, loyal, happy men,” said Liza Stewart, whose Stewart’s Landscaping in Laguna Beach employed both men, who were en route together to their job last week. Garcia-Gonzales started working for the company last month, she said.

“He was proving to be a great employee. His wife told us he was very happy to be working for us,” said Stewart, adding that Salinas had worked for the company since 2005. “He was a joy to work with,” she said, and always wore a smile. “We will truly miss him.”

The major accident investigation team from Irvine returned to the crash site because a piece of gear needed was in use elsewhere during the initial investigation, Callus said. Laguna police drew on the resources of the Irvine team, she said, since “they possess certain equipment and experience that would be beneficial to providing a quality investigation into an awful tragedy.”

Such teams typically consist of investigators with specialized training in traffic collision reconstruction, traffic engineering, automotive engineering, and vehicle dynamics, according to a California Highway Patrol website.

Police continue to seek the aid of witnesses that might have observed the actions of two outbound vehicles, a black Tesla and a white Mercedes, allegedly involved in the collision, she said. “That would absolutely be helpful,” she said.

The driver of the Tesla, who suffered minor injuries in the accident, told police dispatchers “a white Mercedes cut him off, making him go into oncoming traffic” according to the police department’s log.

The Tesla’s owner is a Laguna Beach resident, while the owner of the Mercedes is not, said Callus, who declined to further identify the individuals. KTLA identified the Tesla’s owner as physician Robert Pettis. Efforts to reach him by telephone went unreturned.

Investigators are trying to determine whether racing or other factors contributed to the accident, caused by the Tesla veering into southbound lanes and colliding head-on with the inbound Honda. “That’s what’s being investigated, to tie down what happened and why it happened,” Callus said.

Donations to the collection begun by the police employees association can be mailed by check made out to the Alberto and Armando Memorial and sent to LBPEA, PO Box 4611, Laguna Beach, CA 92652.

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