TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: NASA Van Crash in California Leaves 3 Dead

NASA Van Crash in California Leaves 3 Dead

Lisa Minter (
Wed, 8 Dec 2004 16:03:09 EST

By ROBERT JABLON, Associated Press Writer

A commuter van from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory tumbled 200 feet
off a twisting mountain road Wednesday, killing three people and
injuring seven, at least four of them seriously, authorities said.

The van was carrying 10 people to the laboratory when it plunged off
the Angeles Crest Highway in the Angeles National Forest at about 6:30
a.m. Wednesday morning and rolled down a mountainside about 15 miles
north of downtown Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Fire Department
inspector Ron Haralson said.

"One person was able to get out of the van and make his way up to the
road" to get help, Haralson said.

The van was carrying six employees of the lab in Pasadena, two
contractors and two NASA employees, said Blaine Baggett, a spokesman
at JPL, which is the control center for several NASA projects,
including the Mars rovers. The victims' names were not immediately

"It's a very, very sad day for all of us at JPL," Baggett said, adding
that employees will be offered grief counseling.

Three people were pronounced dead at the scene. One person was flung
from the van. Others lay trapped in the battered white van in the
middle of a dense forest until firefighters arrived and tore off the
doors to reach victims, who were then taken by helicopter to

Of the survivors, one person was in critical condition, three were in
serious condition, two had minor injuries and one person was still
being evaluated, Haralson said.

The cause of the accident was not immediately known. Clouds and fog
shrouded the site, at an altitude of about 1,500 feet. Snow dotted
flanks of the mountain, but the road itself was clear.

Hundreds of cars a day travel the highway, a twisting, two-lane
blacktop with steep drops. Commuters living in the Antelope Valley
area northeast of Los Angeles use it as a shortcut to reach a freeway
in Pasadena.

About 450 of the 5,500 people who work at JPL participate in its
vanpool program, which involves about 30 vans, Baggett said.

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