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Four Die in Calif. Aqueduct Car Crash

February 19, 2003

PEARBLOSSOM, Calif. (AP) _ A pickup truck veered off a highway and plunged into the California Aqueduct on Wednesday, killing four people, including three children. Another child was in critical condition after being pulled out of the murky water without a pulse.

At least five people were in the truck when it sank in about 15 feet of water. Divers were searching for other possible victims in the aqueduct, which carries water to Southern California.

Three of the victims _ 1, 3 and 10 years old _ died after being submerged for 20 to 30 minutes, said Dr. Calvin Lowe of the trauma center at Childrens Hospital in Los Angeles. The fourth victim was a 30-year-old woman who died at Antelope Valley Hospital.

A 14-year-old girl remained on life support at Childrens Hospital. No names were released.

All five victims were found in ``full arrest, no pulse and no breathing,″ said Inspector Ed Osorio of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

The crash happened on a Mojave Desert highway about 70 miles northeast of Los Angeles. A Department of Water Resources worker saw the accident, and an aqueduct control gate 50 yards upstream from the truck was quickly closed, said John Bunce, an operations superintendent for the department.

The aqueduct is the centerpiece of a network of dams and canals that deliver water to the parched southern half of the state. It is 444 miles long and moves hundreds of millions of gallons of water every day.

Bunce estimated the aqueduct water was 15 feet deep where the pickup plunged in. The water was flowing at about 750 cubic feet per second, equal to a current of ``a couple of miles per hour″ at most, Bunce said.

``It’s swift enough that you couldn’t swim upstream,″ he said.

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