Local & Regional
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — A 15-year-old girl has been identified as the victim of a crash on Niles Street, and officers say she may have walked into the path of a car because she was wearing headphones.
Caterin Orellana was killed Tuesday night as she crossed a dark intersection just a few yards from her home.
"She was a really sweet girl," cousin Diana Orellana told Eyewitness News. "Really quiet, really sweet."
The cousin said the teen was an East High School student and usually went by the name "Cathy."
She was walking on the north shoulder of Niles at Orange Drive, according to California Highway Patrol Officer Robert Rodriguez. The accident happened just after 5:15 p.m., and Rodriguez said it was already dark.
"She was wearing dark-colored clothing and she decided to cross the street," Rodriguez said. "And, she also had ear-pods in her ears as she crossed the street, and she failed to notice that there was a car that was approaching."
The officer believes the ear pods were a factor in the teenager being distracted. "Just took her attention off of maybe the vehicles that were traveling on Niles Street," Rodriguez said. "Maybe didn't hear the vehicle."
Cathy's cousin says she listened to music constantly.
"I think she was distracted," Diana Orellana said. And, a nearby restaurant's security video captured the accident, and the owner told her what's on the tape.
"He told me that she was just walking with her head down," the cousin said. "And she was just struck."
The Highway patrolman says the driver of the car stopped and waited for officers to get there.
"He was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol," Rodriguez told Eyewitness News. And, that driver was not cited or arrested.
Rodriguez said the preliminary investigation shows the driver had the right of way, and the pedestrian was not in a marked crosswalk.
Statistics from the CHP Bakersfield office show that most often, pedestrians have been at fault in recent fatal accidents. Rodriguez says in 2012 there were seven deadly accidents involving pedestrians. Of those, pedestrians were found to be at fault 86 percent of the time.
So far in 2013, the CHP reports 16 fatal accidents with pedestrians, and walkers were at fault 38 percent of the time.
Diana Orellana thinks both pedestrians and drivers can be distracted and dangerous.
"I think both," she insisted. "It really depends on both."
She says the family already lost an uncle just last year, who was killed in a similar accident also on Niles Street.
Cathy Orellana's mother says the girl was just coming home from the boxing club at the Kern County Sheriff's Substation that's only five blocks away. The family says she was a good student and interested in sports. Speaking in Spanish, the mother also described Cathy as very calm, and an "angel" at home.
The mom also said traffic on Niles is like a freeway, drivers go very fast.
Officer Rodriguez agrees both drivers and pedestrians need to avoid distractions. He says walkers are often not paying attention.
"You'll see them on their phones, and you'll see them texting and tweeting," he said. "Even if you're in a marked crosswalk, you still have to pay attention and watch out for these motor vehicles."