A homeless woman was killed after a driver lost control of his van on rain-slicked roads, sending the vehicle tumbling down an embankment and onto a homeless encampment in Pacoima Wednesday, authorities said.
The driver said it all happened so quickly that he had no idea he'd hit someone until the California Highway Patrol arrived and lifted his van.
The driver was getting on the 118 Freeway near 11160 N San Fernando Rd. when slick roads caused him to lose control, and when he over-corrected the wheel, the van spun out and rolled over the side of the embankment.
This van tumbled over the side, and into a homeless encampment.
"I check my little dog, then hear boom and I say, 'Oh my friend. She’s there," Blanca Ortiz, a friend of the victim said.
Ortiz said she ran out of the tent she lives in and asked the driver if he needed help. He managed to crawl out, uninjured, but Ortiz's friend who has not yet been identified was killed instantly.
"He said he didn't hear anyone yelling or something like that, nothing at all. He climbed out and tried to get help," the son's driver Jonathan Martinez said.
The driver's son said he's devastated the crash claimed the life of a homeless woman.
"You don’t want to be in that situation," he said.
CHP said the rollover is one of many rain-related crashes they’ve responded to Wednesday.
"It’s the first rain of the season. A lot of oils come up from the asphalt at this time, until the first two or three rains, the roads are going to be extremely slick," CHP's Mike Davis said.
Davis said the encampment is a dangerous place, no matter the weather, because of its proximity to the freeway. It’s state owned-land, managed by CalTrans, but multiple efforts to clear the encampment have been unsuccessful.
"The CHP -- in cooperation with CalTrans -- we try to clear them as quickly as we can but as soon as we leave, they start to rebuild right then and there," Davis said.
Ortiz admits she and her husband have been told to leave at least three times, and each time, they’ve returned.
CHP said at this point it does not appear the driver will face any criminal charges but the decision is up to the district attorney’s office.
Heather Navarro contributed to this report.