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Drugs, alcohol suspected in Boyle Heights school bus accident that killed 1, injured 21

October 26, 2010 | 11:22 am

Three teenage boys in a BMW who ran a red light in Boyle Heights on Monday, killing a pedestrian and injuring 21 in a school bus, are being investigated for being under the influence, officials with the California Highway Patrol said Tuesday.

The driver in Monday's crash also is expected to face at least felony hit-and-run manslaughter charges, investigators said.

The teens in the black BMW plowed through the intersection of East 1st Street and Soto Avenue at a high speed, ran a red light and struck a 70-year-old man before slamming into the rear of the Roosevelt High school bus.

Eduardo Gayton, of Los Angeles, was in the crosswalk when he was hit by the car. CHP Officer John Harris said the three youths fled on foot from the busy intersection and failed to help the victims.

Two of the boys -- the 17-year-old driver and a 14-year-old companion -- were grabbed by nearby construction workers while the third, whose age was unavailable, was arrested when he turned up at a hospital with injuries from the collision.

All three were initially held on suspicion of hit-and-run, police said. Their names were withheld by police because they are underage.

The CHP is handling the investigation because the incident involved a school bus. The agency has called in a team specializing in serious fatal crashes of a criminal nature.

Harris said investigators are looking into whether the driver ran the red light at an unsafe speed because he was the under the influence. A manslaughter charge is likely to be pursued against the driver if he is found to have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

A decision on what charges will be filed will be made by the L.A. County district attorney’s office. In cases where the driver was extremely intoxicated and a fatality was involved, the district attorney's office has sometimes pursued second-degree murder charges.

According to law enforcement sources, the boys in the car may have been using narcotics or sniffing glue before the fatal collision. Blood samples were taken from the suspects to determine if they had been using drugs or alcohol.

The BMW belonged to the driver’s parents, investigators said.

The bus was returning 46 students from the East Los Angeles Skills Center, where they attend classes because of overcrowding, to Roosevelt High School.

-- Richard Winton