in Culver City, students hurt when car jumped sidewalk

BY VINCE ECHAVARIA

A Santa Monica woman who taught at a private school in Culver City was killed Wednesday, March 15th, when a car drove onto the sidewalk on National Boulevard in Culver City, striking the teacher and injuring eight students, police said.

Carrie Phillips, 24, a teacher at Turning Point School in Culver City, was walking with the students in the 8500 block of National Boulevard at about 2:50 p.m. when the westbound car traveled onto the sidewalk and hit them, Culver City police said.

Phillips was pronounced dead at the scene and eight students from the group of 15 students sustained moderate injuries, Culver City police Lt. Dean Williams said.

Culver City police were called to the scene and were assisted by two companies of Los Angeles City Fire Department firefighters and seven department rescue ambulances.

The eight students, ages 13 to 14, were treated at the scene and taken to local hospitals, where they were treated for primarily “impact-type” injuries, Williams said.

Phillips, who lived in an apartment in Santa Monica, taught physical education at Turning Point School and also coached the girls volleyball team.

Turning Point head of school Deborah Richman said school officials “are doing everything necessary to address the emotional needs of our students and faculty” and grief counselors were at the school to provide support and assistance as needed.

“What occurred (March 15th) is a terrible tragedy,” Richman said. “Our thoughts are with the students and their families who suffered injuries and we are in touch with all of them.

“We are in the earliest stages of serious mourning for our beloved teacher whom we have lost.”

Phillips and another teacher were walking with the group of students on their way back to the school from a nearby park when the accident occurred.

The other teacher was leading the group while Phillips was at the rear.

After the car struck the group, the driver, identified as Laura Samayoa, 20, of Los Angeles, and her passenger, identified as Reynaldo Cruz, 19, of Los Angeles, allegedly got out of the car and “rapidly walked away” in separate directions, Williams said.

A witness followed Samayoa and directed arriving officers to her location, Williams said.

Samayoa was arrested and taken to the Culver City Police Department, where Williams said she alleged to investigators that she had been in an argument with Cruz, and that Cruz then grabbed the steering wheel and veered the car onto the sidewalk.

Cruz surrendered to police later in Culver City Wednesday evening March 15th, Williams said.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney filed a felony hit and run charge Friday, March 17th, against Samayoa and a second-degree murder charge against Cruz, Williams said.

“The evidence presented to the district attorney was sufficient to obtain a second-degree murder charge against Cruz,” Williams said.

Samayoa and Cruz are being held at county jail on $400,000 bail.

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