Another killed in street race crash - East Valley Tribune: News

Another killed in street race crash

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Posted: Thursday, February 12, 2004 12:09 pm | Updated: 4:41 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Lori Bratcher had just sent off her 10-year-old son with his father, Donald Bratcher, when the car was T-boned by a street racer Thursday outside her office building.

The son walked away with minor injuries, police said." class="content-link" target="150">View reporter Laura Douglas' coverage on ABC 15

Donald Bratcher, 42, of Chandler, died about an hour later at Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix.

"She just waved goodbye," said co-worker Steven A. Cardenas. "She was right there."

Bratcher is the third person in less than a week in the East Valley to die from a crash involving street racing.

Saturday, two men were killed when they lost control of their car while racing a black Ford Mustang on Loop 101 near Warner Road and crashed into oncoming traffic, officials said. A Scottsdale couple were taken to the hospital with critical injuries after their SUV was hit head-on.

Last Friday, eight people were injured when a vehicle containing five children was struck by one of two vehicles believed to be racing on Broadway Road near Dobson Road in Mesa. Nobody was killed in that crash, but one man was arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault and DUI.

The husband of Sharon Gilloon, who was injured in last Friday’s crash and is still hospitalized with a broken pelvis, a concussion, a bruised liver, and broken tailbone, said the recent spate of drag racing incidents are aggravating and saddening.

"We’re just dealing with young kids who don’t have any brains," said John Gilloon.

Thursday’s crash happened about 10:30 a.m. on McClintock Drive just south of U.S. 60, said police Sgt. Dan Masters.

One of the suspected racers, Alex Leyvas, 18, of Tempe, was arrested at the scene and booked into jail on suspicion of manslaughter, Masters said. The driver suspected of hitting Bratcher’s car, Michael Esquer, 20, was taken to a Valley hospital with a fractured femur, possible broken ankle, and other nonlife-threatening injuries.

Police plan to arrest Esquer once he is released from the hospital, Masters said.

Witnesses told police they saw two vehicles take off northbound on McClintock from a traffic light near Baseline Road. One was a pickup truck driven by Leyvas, the other a Honda souped up with racing gauges and a nitrous oxide tank, Masters said.

Witnesses told investigators the two vehicles were moving faster than 75 mph, Masters said.

Just before U.S. 60, Bratcher began to make a left turn from the Tempe Corporate Center at 4515 S. McClintock Drive in a Hyundai sedan, and was struck by the Honda. The Hyundai spun out, then collided with another vehicle before crashing through a cinder block wall, Masters said.

"He pulls out to go southbound on McClintock and he gets T-boned on the driver side," Masters said.

Bratcher’s son was in the back seat.

"This is in every sense of the word a tragedy," Masters said.

A string of fatal racingrelated crashes two years ago prompted state lawmakers to stiffen penalties.

The push largely began after the July 4, 2001, death of Steve Welch, 33, killed while delivering a pizza in Ahwatukee Foothills after a street racer slammed into his car at about 80 mph.

Despite the deterrent of stiffer fines and more jail time, people keep using Valley streets as their raceways, several police officers said.

It is difficult to track the number of street racing incidents because the drivers aren’t likely to admit to it, said Mesa traffic Sgt. Bruce Jones. A ticket for speed racing can result in the loss of one’s drivers license.

Also, officers sometimes are unable to stop both drivers so statistics may only show one ticket, Jones said.

The Valley is filled with wide, long roads — the only prerequisite for races, Jones said.

"These people need to realize there’s a place for racing, and that’s on a track with profe ssionals," Jones said. "They’re putting themselves and the public in danger and it’s just not worth it. Even if they walk away from an accident, someone else might not and they’ll end up paying for that the rest of their lives."

Incidents also coincide with the release of Hollywood movies that glamorize street racing, said DPS officer Steve Volden, though he adds there are no statistics to support that. "Torque," an adrenaline soaked crime thriller released this year starring Ice Cube, features souped up superbikes and sport compacts.

"Every time one of these movies come out we seem to see a spike (in racing activity)," Volden said. "The young kids love that and that’s what they’re trying to emulate."

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