Wednesday, December 8, 2004

LOS ANGELES — A commuter van (Van Pool No. 36) from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) plunged 200 feet into a ravine in the Angeles National Forest this morning. The van was carrying ten people: six JPL employees, two NASA employees, and two private contractors. They are identified as:

  • Javier Bautista: Regular Substitute Driver
  • Cheryl Lynn Allworth: Executive Secretary in JPL’s Space Experiments Systems Section
  • Dorothy M. Forks: JPL Human Resources
  • Peter Robles
  • Helga Maria Wurm
  • Jane F. Galloway: JPL Business Manager
  • Kerri Lynn Agey: Contractor for JPL Security Services
  • Christopher Butts
  • Jim Kitahara
  • David Myers

Three of the passengers — Forks, Galloway, and Agey — lost their lives; the remaining seven sustained various levels of injury, including one passenger suffering critical injury, according to authorities. All victims were airlifted to local area hospitals.

According to witnesses who reported the crash, the van simply drove off the side of Angeles Forest Highway. Despite the presence of fog during the accident, the California Highway Patrol believes that this was not a factor. The CHP has said that the investigation into the crash may take two to three days before the cause is known.

JPL spokesperson D.C. Agle confirmed that the van was from the facility. Initially, JPL refrained from commenting, but JPL security was spotted at the site shortly after the incident occurred.

The Angeles Forest Highway is a two-lane mountain road considered a commuter route for many residents of the Antelope Valley including Palmdale and Lancaster residents. It is an alternative to get to Interstate 210, rather than taking the heavily traveled Antelope Valley Freeway (California State Route 14).

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