Deadly Road Incident Renews Concerns About Speeding

Workers pull the broken front half a shattered Kia onto a towing ramp, where crushed debris have also been hauled.
Photo by Christian Leonard / Burbank Leader
A Tuesday night crash that the Burbank Police Department believes was caused by street racing resulted in the deaths of three people who were in a car that was not involved in the possible race. Workers spent much of Wednesday morning removing crash debris.

After police reported that a car crash that killed three people this week appeared to have resulted from a street race on Glenoaks Boulevard, several residents have said that speeding in that area is far from uncommon.

Officers and paramedics responded to reports of a collision and a vehicle on fire on Tuesday at about 11:50 p.m., according to the Burbank Police Department. First responders found three people who had been ejected from a silver Volkswagen that was not involved in the suspected racing, pronouncing them dead at the scene.

 The Los Angeles County coroner’s office later identified the dead as 21-year-old Pasadena resident Cerain Anthony Raekwon Baker; Burbank resident  Jaiden Kishon Johnson, 20; and 19-year-old Natalee Asal Moghaddam of Calabasas. Baker was a John Burroughs High School alumnus who played football at the school.

Police said two other vehicles, a gray Kia and a black Mercedes-Benz, were speeding north on Glenoaks Boulevard in what appears to have been a street race as the Volkswagen, traveling south, tried to turn left onto Andover Drive. Investigators are still working to determine whether one or both of the northbound vehicles struck the Volkswagen, according to Brimway. Police did not identify the occupants of the Kia and Mercedes-Benz.

The crash severely injured a fourth person in the Volkswagen, who was driving the vehicle at the time of the crash, according to BPD Sgt. Emil Brimway. She was taken to a hospital and was in stable condition this week, Brimway added.

A BPD investigation was continuing on Friday. Though police don’t generally make arrests for speeding violations, Brimway explained, he said that after concluding the investigation, detectives would present their findings to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office “for criminal filing consideration.” 

Investigators have determined that alcohol and drugs were not contributing factors in the crash, the police spokesman added. He said all of the people involved were in their late teens or early 20s.

Police and Burbank Fire Department personnel remained present at the collision site for much of Wednesday as workers towed away the remains of the Volkswagen — which had been split into multiple parts by the crash.

Standing near the intersection where the Volkswagen was struck, local resident Mark Bernet pointed to where he had seen first responders pull an injured male from the wreckage the night before. He lives down the street, he explained, and walked over to the crash site after hearing the sirens. 

“It was awful,” Bernet said in an interview as police inspected the Volkswagen’s torn-off front section. “I heard they were young.”

Posters with the pictures and names of Cerain Baker and Jaiden Johnson are leaned against a wall near dozens of candles
Photo by Christian Leonard / Burbank Leader
Friends and family members set up a memorial at Glenoaks Boulevard and Andover Drive to honor those killed in a recent crash. Those who died included John Burroughs High School alumnus Cerain Baker and Burbank resident Jaiden Johnson.

Neighbors who watched crews cleaning the debris lamented the deaths, though several said that speeding on Glenoaks — a major road that stretches through multiple cities — has remained an issue for years. Burbank residents who spoke with the Leader said speeding is most apparent at night, with some adding that police seem to focus enforcement in the afternoon and evening.

Rick Sheetz, who lives on Glenoaks, said cars rush down the street every night, but especially on weekends. Electronic speed signs don’t seem to help, he added, and though he’d like more of a police presence at night he knows the BPD’s workforce is limited.

He said he’s not surprised that this week’s fatal crash occurred.

“I’m surprised we haven’t had more, to be honest,” he added.

Asked whether speeding on Glenoaks is indeed a common occurrence, Brimway said that the street is “regularly patrolled by officers and appropriate enforcement action is taken when officers locate violators,” and that the department uses both education and enforcement to discourage speeding.

“The Burbank Police Department takes illegal street racing, reckless driving and speed exhibition very seriously and will always ensure those responsible for such acts are held responsible,” Brimway said in an email. “We also ask for parents to have safety talks with their children about the consequences of such dangerous acts.”

The lone occupant of the Kia, which also struck three parked cars, was severely injured in the collision, Brimway said. He was taken to a local trauma center and was in stable condition this week, the sergeant added.

The two occupants of the Mercedes-Benz did not report any injuries, and police released them after an interview, according to the BPD.

The vice president of the Burbank Unified School District’s Board of Education, Charlene Tabet, addressed the deaths at a meeting Thursday. She asked the district’s staff to place on the agenda a conversation about traffic safety and speeding on streets with schools, and suggested the board also present it to the city at their next joint meeting in October.

“Yesterday was a very hard day. I had watched a young man grow up playing football in the Vikings program and then on at Burroughs,” Tabet said, referring to Baker. “Three innocent human beings passed away that weren’t doing anything wrong. … I don’t want to go through this again.”

Leader staff writer Oscar Areliz contributed to this report