PALMDALE – Did you or anyone you know witness the school bus collision last week that claimed the life of 18-year-old bicyclist Michael Valenzuela? If so, the California Highway Patrol would like to hear from you.
CHP investigators are requesting assistance from the public in identifying persons who might have witnessed the fatal collision, which happened around 3:54 p.m. on Monday, March 25 in the vicinity of Avenue R and 55th Street East.
Investigators believe there were about six vehicles in the area at the time of the crash, and they are encouraging the drivers and occupants of those vehicles to contact the California Highway Patrol as soon as possible. If you were driving in the area or have contact information for a person or persons who were, contact CHP officers Wheeler or Howell at 661-948-8541.
Valenzuela was riding his bicycle southbound on 55th Street East on his way to soccer practice when he was struck by school bus filled with students that was traveling westbound on Avenue R. Valenzuela died a short time later at the hospital.
At the Palmdale City Council meeting Wednesday night, Palmdale Youth Soccer League representatives presented a petition with 1,855 signatures calling on the city to install a traffic light at the intersection of Avenue R and 55th Street East.
“This past week took the life of a very special young man,” Jackie Perez told the Council. “I believe if a light was installed here years ago this tragedy may never have happened.”
“The Valenzuela family has suffered a terrible tragedy and has lost a son, a brother, a grandson, in such devastating circumstances,” said Kat Sanchez. “We are all here tonight to ask the city council to hear our voices.”
City officials gave an outline Wednesday night of what is being done to install a traffic light at the deadly intersection.
In April 2012, the city applied for a Federal Highway Safety Improvement grant to be used for the project, and they received the grant in October 2012 in the amount of $528,000, said Chuck Heffernan, Palmdale’s Assistant Director of Public Works. The city would provide an additional $110,000 to the project, Heffernan added.
In January 2013, the Palmdale City Council approved the budget for the project; in February, the city received federal authorization to proceed; and in March, the city received authorization from Caltrans, Heffernan said.
Several more steps needed to be completed to adhere to federal guidelines, including the design of the intersection, right of way acquisition and awarding the contract, which would put the project completion date around spring of 2014, Heffernan said.
“We’ll do everything we can to expedite every phase of this and we hope to cut this down, but this is a realistic schedule at this time,” Heffernan said.
In the meantime, the Palmdale Youth Soccer League is continuing its fundraisers to support the Valenzuela family.
A second car wash fundraiser will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 7 in the parking lot of Taco Bell at 37910 47th Street East in Palmdale. For more information on this fundraiser or what you can do to support to Valenzuela family, contact Kat Sanchez at 661-733-1973.
To make a personal donation to the Valenzuela family, visit any Bank of America and ask to donate to the account of Juan and Michael Valenzuela. The account number is 325019314271.
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