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CHP continues to search for driver who caused fatal accident

November 14, 2010 |  4:43 pm
Five killed in crash with 7 motorcycles

California Highway Patrol officers on Sunday continued their search for the driver of a gold Honda Accord they think caused an accident in Imperial County that killed five people and injured six.

Four of the dead belonged to a motorcycle club called the Saddle Tramps, based in Lakeside in northeast San Diego County, CHP Officer DeeAnn Goudie said. The accident occured while the club was celebrating its 10th anniversary Saturday with a ride across the desert, she said.

Goudie said at least 12 members of the motorcycle club met around 9 a.m. for breakfast in Lakeside before hitting the road. About 12:50 p.m. they were riding east on California 98 near Ocotillo, about 80 miles from San Diego, when the Honda pulled up behind the motorcyclists and passed them in the oncoming lane.

At the same time, a white Dodge Avenger heading toward the motorcyclists swerved to avoid the oncoming Honda. Goudie said the driver lost control and crashed into six motorcyclists, killing four of them. Authorities say the Honda driver caused the crash and continuing heading east.

Among those killed were a husband and wife riding the same bike, Goudie said. The names of the dead were not released Sunday pending notification of their relatives.

The CHP identified the driver of the Dodge as Carlos Ramirez Bobadilla, 36, of Mexicali, Mexico. His wife was among those killed.

The injured were airlifted or taken by ambulance to UC San Diego Medical Center and the El Centro Regional Medical Center, according to Goudie.

Those hospitalized were Wilson Trayer, 39, of Lakeside, Kelly Halley, 42, of Santee; William Barnes, 57, and Melanie Barnes, 46, both of San Diego. A fifth survivor, John Lombardo, 55, was released from El Centro Medical Center on Sunday afternoon.

CHP Officer Wes Boerner said there were no obvious indications of Bobadilla driving under the influence. However, he was given a blood test to determine if drugs or alcohol were involved, Boerner said.

News of the fatal accident gradually spread through the motorcycle community. "It's just sad," said Chris Zurn of the Orange County nonprofit group Two Wheels, One Heart. "Whether it's a CHP officer who goes down on his bike, a one-bike-and-car accident, it's just very saddening."

Ed Carroll, chapter director of the Gold Wing Road Riders Assn. in San Diego, said he heard about the fatal crash Saturday night. "We are really upset over it," Carroll said. "It reminds us that we can sometimes be at the end of someone's mistake and that they can get away with it."

Authorities did not know the year of the gold Honda that caused the accident car or its license plate number.

There are about 1.2 million licensed motorcyclists in the state, according to the CHP. The number of people killed or injured in motorcycle-involved collisions has increased during the past decade. According to the CHP, 586 people were killed and another 13,252 people injured in 2008, the latest year information was available.

-- Ruben Vives

Photo: Scene of accident in Imperial County. Credit: KTLA News