DOWNTOWN — An Australian tourist was struck and killed by a suspected drunk driver while crossing Colorado Avenue Tuesday evening with his wife and young daughter, Santa Monica police said.
The driver, identified as 26-year-old Cara Cameron of Westchester, Calif., was taken into custody and booked for vehicular manslaughter and felony driving under the influence. She posted $100,000 bail and is scheduled to be arraigned on Sept. 21 at the Airport Courthouse, police said.
It was the sixth fatal traffic collision in Santa Monica so far this year, said Chris Dawson, a traffic investigator for the Santa Monica Police Department.
The victim, 50, and his family were illegally crossing Colorado Avenue near Santa Monica Place mall and Sears around 8:15 p.m. when Cameron, who was traveling approximately 40 miles per hour, swerved, side-swiping the 8-year-old girl and throwing her to the ground, while striking the father with the front of the car, Dawson said.
He died hours later at an area hospital. The wife told police that the family walked against the red light after looking both ways and seeing no traffic, Dawson said.
The girl suffered minor injuries, including a few scrapes to her knees.
Dawson said the driver stopped her car and cooperated with officers.
“She basically said she didn’t see them until it was too late,” Dawson said. “She had a green light.”
Santa Monica has been the site of two fatal hit-and-run collisions in the last few months. Another hit-and-run involved cartoon producer Roger Slifer, who is still in the hospital in a coma, Dawson said. So far no suspects have been arrested in connection with those crashes.
The first took place on June 23 around 1 a.m. at the intersection of Fifth Street and Colorado Avenue. Witnesses said the driver struck Slifer while he was in the crosswalk. Slifer produced the television cartoon “Transformers.”
Police said they are looking for a late 1990s or early 2000s white sedan that was last seen going north on Fifth Street.
The second hit-and-run took place on July 10 around 11:15 p.m. on Pacific Coast Highway. Venice resident Erin Galligan, 30, was struck by a pickup truck after she swerved into an adjacent traffic lane while riding her bicycle. The driver fled the scene, last seen heading east on Interstate 10 in a 1999 Chevy Silverado 1500 or GMC Sierra, Dawson said.
Just six days later another 30-year-old woman was hit and killed while crossing 21st Street at Wilshire Boulevard. Claire Rose was hit shortly after midnight on July 16 after celebrating her birthday.
Witnesses said the driver was in a black 2009 or 2010 Toyota Corolla S.
Dawson said investigators are vigorously following up on leads received but the task can be daunting given that they have little information to work with. Even when investigators have partial license plates there can be thousands of possible combinations.
“It’s a huge number,” Dawson said. “We are hoping people come forward. We are hoping that the drivers develop a conscience and realize they should do the right thing and turn themselves in.”
Officers are distributing fliers throughout the community and in residential areas nearby to see if anyone has heard or seen anything since the collisions.
Dawson, a 30-year-veteran of the SMPD, isn’t giving up hope. He has made arrests months after a crash. In one accident in 1996 at the corner of 16th Street and Ocean Park Boulevard, a neighbor of the suspect caught a glimpse of his car, which was partially hidden under a tarp. She saw damage to the front of the car and had recently read a flier distributed by police about the hit-and-run.
The woman notified police and they arrested the car’s owner, who later plead guilty, Dawson said.
Those who walk or ride a bike around town should do their best to make themselves visible to drivers, Dawson said. Wear light or bright colors, make eye contact with drivers before stepping into the roadway and plan routes beforehand so you can pick those streets that are less traveled and potentially safer for cyclists.
Having the proper lights on one’s bike and wearing a helmet are also recommended.
“You cannot teach people to do the right thing if they don’t learn it as children,” Dawson said of drivers who flee the scene of a crash. “A lot of times people panic. It could be drugs or alcohol-related and they just don’t want to stick around for it.”
And that goes for minor accidents as well.
“About 30 percent of our crashes are hit-and-runs,” Dawson said.
Anyone with information on the unsolved cases are urged to contact Dawson at (310) 458-8954 or the watch commander at (310) 458-8495.
Anonymous tips can be submitted to Crime Stoppers by calling (800) 222-TIPS (8477) or by visiting their website at www.lacrimestoppers.org. If the information leads to an arrest, the tipster is eligible to receive a reward up to $1,000.