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Wrong-way driver who killed mom, 2 children had suspended license

A wrong-way driver who caused a crash at a Hollywood intersection that killed a mother and her two children was driving on a suspended licensed, Los Angeles police said.

Solomon Mathenge, 74, of Lawndale was driving north on Highland Avenue across Willoughby Avenue at 7:20 a.m. when he veered into oncoming traffic and hit a minivan carrying 27-year-old Saida Juana Mendez-Bernardino of Los Angeles and her daughters, Stephanie Cruz, 4, and Hilda Cruz, 6.

Mendez-Bernardino had been driving her oldest daughter to school. She died at the scene. The girls died a short time later at a hospital.

Mathenge, who was driving an Infiniti, was taken to a hospital and remains in critical condition. He has not been arrested or charged.

Drugs or alcohol are not a factor in the collision, but police said authorities still do not know why he drove into the other lane.

Police sources said Mathenge's license was suspended for failure to appear in court on a traffic citation. His driving record included citations for speeding and talking on a cellphone.

Police are continuing to investigate the cause of the accident.

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-- Andrew Blankstein and Richard Winton

 
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