Crashes in wet weather result in two DUI arrests

Two men were arrested for DUI, following crashes over the weekend that damaged a tree and a sign in the Claremont Village.

On Saturday, March 2 at 11:19 p.m., officers were called to Indian Hill Boulevard and First Street, where they discovered an overturned car, according to the news release from the city of Claremont.

The driver, Harrison Bengochea, 28, from Chino Hills, was driving westbound on First Street toward Indian Hill, when he hit the median, jumped the curb and clipped a tree, causing his car to flip over, Lt. Jason Walters of the Claremont Police Department said. He told police he was coming from The Press. Mr. Bengochea was arrested for DUI.

Around 3:40 a.m. on Sunday, officers responded to another single vehicle crash, this time at the intersection of Indian Hill and Harrison Avenue. The driver, Guillermo Hernandez, 22, from Chino, reportedly abandoned his vehicle and left the scene on foot before officers arrived. A “Claremont Village” welcome sign at the intersection was badly damaged in the crash.

Mr. Hernandez reported his vehicle stolen, but police dispatch traced the call and located him about a quarter mile south on Indian Hill. He was arrested for DUI, hit and run, possession of narcotics and possession of a narcotic pipe.

Monday morning, Claremont maintenance worker Robert Verboys was cleaning up pieces of the vehicle that hit the sign on Indian Hill, while Claremont resident Kevin Thompson watched.

Mr. Thompson, who has lived on Indian Hill a few doors north of Harrison Avenue for 13 years, says this type of crash occurs frequently.

“Every time it rains we have an accident,” he said “And it’s always at night.”

The problem appears to be related to the gradual left turn Indian Hill makes just before entering the Village. Motorists who are driving too fast on the straight section of the street often fail to properly navigate the turn.

Mr. Thompson heard the collision just after 3:30 Sunday morning. “I did not even get out of bed, I just called the police and told them we had another accident.”

This is the second crash at the intersection this week, according to Mr. Thompson, who said a driver missed the turn on Thursday, but did not hit the sign.

Mr. Thompson thinks the city needs to do something about the problem before somebody is hurt. He suggested better illumination and a sign warning motorists about the curve.

The intersection was redesigned a few years ago. Drivers heading south on Indian Hill at Harrision once had two lanes—one that curved left toward the Village and a second that lead straight to Harrison. Mr. Thompson said it wasn’t much better with that design, because drivers often ended up in the front yard of the former mortuary on the south side of Harrison.

On Wednesday the city installed a new pole and flashing light at Harrison and Indian Hill but it does not seem to have fully corrected the problem, as there was another wreck at 11 p.m. according to Mr. Thompson.

Thursday morning he called Mayor Corey Calaycay and Police Chief Shelly Vander Veen seeking a solution.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen but something needs to be done,” he said.

—Matthew Bramlett



—Steven Felschundneff


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