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Fatal Crash Witness Urges Preparedness Along Parkway

Steven Goodrich, who witnessed the burning death of 2-year-old Leiana Ramirez, said motorists may have been able to prevent tragedy if properly equipped.

It has been nearly a month since two-year-old Leiana Ramirez perished inside a burning vehicle on the side of the Arroyo Seco Parkway in Highland Park.

, Ramirez was secured in the back seat of her mother's 2002 Nissan when it burst into flames after being rear-ended by a truck.



Among the motorists to first arrive at the scene was 21-year-old Steven Goodrich, an aspiring musician who was returning home from a shift at Islands Restaurant in Pasadena to his home in Hancock Park.

In an interview with Patch at , Goodrich reflected on being at the scene of the crash, and shared some of his regrets about not being able to save Ramirez.

He said that if he was equipped with a crowbar or a fire extinguisher, he may have been able to save Ramirez.

"If someone had a crowbar and a fire extinguisher in their car when they pulled up that accident, that baby would still be alive," Goodrich said. "That's something to think about … for sure."

Below is a full transcript Patch's interview with Goodrich.

You were driving home from work?

Just a normal work day. I always take that freeway and I always slow down at the curb. I had just gotten off work, and I was driving home. I was only probably the second car to stop, an accident had just happened. I just remember an SUV and a car behind it smashed into the wall. The first thing I saw was a guy kicking the car, and I automatically thought there must be some kind of fight.

I realized he was trying to break the window. Nobody was out of their cars yet. I jumped out of my car and opened my trunk to look for something to break it. By that time there were a few cars stopping on the other side and a guy jumped over with a crowbar. I still didn't realize exactly was going on, but I heard a lady screaming "my baby's in there, my baby's in there." They had gotten [the lady] out, but there was a fire in the back, and by the time [somebody] broke the window, the whole thing was up in flames. I was probably seven-eight feet away watching this baby burn alive until she died.

I was just freaking out--I almost passed out. Even then, the guy was trying to get the door open, but it was basically too late. Someone from one of the houses along the freeway got a fire extinguisher, it was too late. He didn't even know how to use it; he was reading it, looking at it.

A girl I know, actually her cousin died on the freeway at the same spot, and her great aunt died at the same spot. It's crazy.

Do you think about it?

I do. I do. That whole week, I spent a lot of time crying my eyes out … y'know? Like a little baby. I don't know. It was something no one should ever see. And the mom was right there, watching her child die. I just wish people were more prepared. No one had any way to put a fire out, no one had anything to break a window. And, beside me, no one and maybe two or three other people got out of their cars. They probably didn't realize what was going on.

Do you carry a fire extinguisher in your car now?

I do now.

When did you buy one, right after?

Yeah, pretty much. I said to myself, "that's never going to happen again, if I have anything to do with it."

What did you think of the reaction you saw from everyone else that was around the scene of the accident?

There was a few people that jumped out and were ready to do whatever they could. For the most part, everyone just minded their own business and waited. Obviously, the mom was freaking out and the guys from the SUV, who were part of the accident, they were the ones trying to break the window and get her out. There were a few people standing by; there was nothing they could really do.

How does that make you feel? I know some said people at the scene should have done more, but, like you said, there's only so much one can do. How do you feel about what you saw in terms of reaction from people?

I do feel people should be more prepared. It's not like you should carry a whole arsenal of tools in your car, but stuff does happen and it would be cool to see a faster reaction. It was obvious it was a pretty bad crash—the car was on fire—but I only saw two or three people get out of their car to see if they could help. That was kind of disturbing. For me, personally, I wish I was more prepared, and I wish I could have done something more than just be available.

How often do you drive on the freeway, the 110?

On the freeway? Five or fix days a week.

Does it feel dangerous for you to drive on?

It does. When I go on, especially on that curve, I always slow down, at least half the speed. I've personally almost been in two or three car accidents in that area. Especially when it rains, people think they can go faster than they can. One guy slid and bumped into me. Luckily, it wasn't that bad. But, I get a little nervous whenever I drive in that area. It's an old freeway.

And you've driven on it since then; you've driven by that spot? How do you feel when you drive?

It pretty much flashes in my head everytime I go on that curve now. It's really hard. I re-live it everytime I go around there. I think this is where I slowed down and stopped.

What do you think should be done about that highway? Do you think anything can be done in terms of making it safer?

I think the amount of lives lost and damage done is definitely worth people's inconvenience of people not having a freeway to drive on if it can get fixed or at least straightened out somehow. I think it's definitely worth it, and it needs to be done. And I think it will avoid a lot of accidents, for sure. It wasn't built for cars going 70-80 miles per hour. But I do think something should be be done if it can be.

How are you doing now? Emotionally …

Right now I've been doing better. I've been talking to a lot of people; family really helped me out. It's still hard when I talk about it. You know, it's horrifying, seeing someone die—let alone burning alive. That's the kind of stuff that will never leave you. People will ask me about it, and I don't want to talk about it. It's tough. It's hard to deal with, and it's hard to think. Maybe if I was more prepared, I could have done this, I could have …

For the most part, I was just stunned. I just stood there for a couple seconds before I reacted … so, y'know. I've been doing a little better.

Do you think there is anything you could have done? You went in the trunk, you looked to see if you had anything. That's the kind of situation that a civilian is not prepared to deal with.

That's true. I wasn't sure when it happened; no one had really arrived yet and—like I said—I was literally the second car to stop. So, it must have just happened.

It was just one of those things, if someone had a fire extinguisher in their car, y'know, I'm almost 100-percent sure that baby would be alive. Only a few minutes had gone by and no one had done anything. Finally, somebody on the other side had a crowbar, broke the window. It was like an explosion, it just came out the window.

If someone had a crowbar and a fire extinguisher in their car when they pulled up to that accident, that baby would still be alive. That's something to think about … for sure.

Emmanuel September 22, 2011 at 02:48 PM
I'm touched by how much you cared Steven. It's because of civilians such as yourself lives can be saved in moments of despair. Unfortunately like you said, no one had efficient tools. I have kids and don't know how I would survive if something like that happened-but I will definitely get a fire extinguisher for the car, hopefully never for us but at least it will be available for someone in need like you said. Thank you for your bravery and effort.
S. Ray September 22, 2011 at 03:45 PM
I carry a pocket tool that many police officers have. It's called a Res-Q-Me, and it has a spring loaded device that will break a car window and a blade that will cut a seat belt. I noticed a police officer friend of mine had one and asked him about it. He said that he uses it once or twice a week on average. It is very small, designed for a key chain and will fit in the palm of your hand. The closest I ever came to using it was when I was the second car to come upon a Ford Explorer that rolled over on the SB 110 near the Orange Grove offramp, but the sole occupant was already out of the car, and instead, I put down road flares and used the spot light I carry to warn traffic that was approaching of the overturned vehicle. Even then, people would not slow down that much, and there were nearly 2-3 accidents while we waited about 20 minutes for the CHP to a arrive. Due to the rush hour traffic, it took the CHP so long that I had to light more flares since the first ones burned out. Road flares can be purchased for about $1.50 each, the Res-Q-Me costs about $10, and a fire extinguisher can be purchased for about $10. These are the types of things that are useful only when you need them, but as the saying goes, failing to plan is planning to fail.
Tom P September 23, 2011 at 01:29 AM
And don't talk on you hand held cell phone while driving slowly in the left lane on the way home. Every day I see fools doing so and other drivers trying to pass the talkers on the right.
Luis R. September 23, 2011 at 08:34 PM
In reposnse to S. Ray's post. Where can you find that Res-Q-Me tool? I too was there but about 40 cars back at the beginning of the curve. I could see smoke and traffic was totally stuck for several minutes but then began to move. As I passed the scene my first thought was "God I hope no one is stuck in that car" because it was fully engilfed in flames and there was a gentleman with a small hose spraying the car from over the fence and two other guys running from the houses with buckets of water. I learned the next day about the tragedy. Whenever I see an Altima that scene flashes in my mind and I think "what could have I done?" Take care Steven.
steve goodrich April 26, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Thank you David for seeing me and the interview, and thank you everyone else for your support and kind words :)

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