A hit-and-run victim received a commemorative rainbow halo to honor her life and raise awareness of pedestrian-involved traffic collisions.
Yanochka Lavrenteva -- known by loved ones as Yana -- was out celebrating a birthday party with her husband and six other couples in Encino on the night of Oct. 14, 2018.
After the celebration, Lavrenteva and some friends crossed Ventura Boulevard near the Encino Commons for a cup of coffee, when she was struck by a hit-and-run driver in a silver Toyota 4Runner.
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Julia Karobkoff, a family friend of Lavrenteva's, said she remembers the shock that came with hearing the news.
"I was numb, and I started shaking uncontrollably," Karobkoff said.
Karobkoff said Lavrenteva was transported to Providence Medical Center following the crash. She died at the hospital.
"She was broken. They tried some surgeries, but she succumbed to her injuries and we had to say our goodbyes by the next day," Karobkoff said.
Lavrenteva, who was 30-years-old when she died, was survived by her husband, Evgeny, as well as her two children, Nikita and Sophia.
She worked as a speech therapist and pathologist, and was pursuing an MBA to further her career, Karobkoff said.
Karobkoff added Lavrenteva was a skilled pianist and ballroom dancer, which were talents she displayed to help her win the Mrs. Russian LA beauty pageant in 2012.
Karobkoff said faith and the family's church has aided the healing process in the year since Lavrenteva's death, especially for her children.
"The children really believe in angels now, and they believe their mother is an angel in heaven praying for them," Karobkoff said.
Karobkoff said the incident inspired her and Lavrenteva’s family to raise awareness of pedestrian-involved traffic collisions. She reached out to Southern California Families for Safe Streets to help honor Lavrenteva’s memory and bring attention to the issue at hand.
Southern California Families for Safe Streets arranges to install rainbow halos at certain Los Angeles streets and intersections to memorialize pedestrians killed in traffic collisions. The Rainbow Halo Project was developed by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, the City's Department of Cultural Affairs and local artist John Mores.
The project’s goal is to install a total of 100 rainbow halos.
Lavrenteva received a rainbow halo at the intersection of Ventura Boulevard and Louise Avenue on Nov. 15, 2019. The installation was accompanied by a memorial event attended by friends, family and representatives from LADOT, Southern California Families for Safe Streets and other organizations.
Karobkoff said it was important for Lavrenteva’s family to see her life memorialized in such a fashion.
"It meant so much to Yana's mother, father and husband that she's not just a statistic," Karobkoff said. "They don’t want her death to be in vain. They want her death to be remembered and for it to heighten awareness among drivers."
She said the halo serves as a link to Lavrenteva.
"I call it the rainbow connection to Yana," Karobkoff said. "Family and friends can drive by there and see the glimmer of sunlight going through the halo and casting the pretty prisms casting on the ground. Hopefully some drivers will take notice and be aware why that rainbow halo is there."
Karobkoff added that while the halo is meaningful monument to Lavrenteva's life, it is important that it also serves as a reminder to drivers to avoid distractions while behind the wheel.
She said she hopes the halo and the sentiments it stands for will aid the LADOT's Vision Zero project, which seeks to eliminate all traffic deaths by the year 2025.
"The halo is a beautiful gesture and a beautiful bandaid to help our healing, but we'll never get Yana back," Karobkoff said. "Drivers need to take responsibility for their actions and they need to think twice before they pick up that cellphone and text and drive or eat their ham sandwich while they're behind the wheel."