By Caleb Lunetta & Emily Alvarenga
Signal Senior Staff Writers
Data recorders found inside both vehicles involved in the fatal Castaic crash Sunday may provide further details into what transpired moments before a 17-year-old Castaic resident was killed, investigators said Tuesday.
Law enforcement officials also confirmed Tuesday the two vehicles were impounded by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to be analyzed and possibly used to help determine whether investigators will recommend the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office file charges against the teenage drivers of the two vehicles.
In the 48 hours since the crash was first reported on the 28400 block of Sloan Canyon Road around 4:30 p.m., Sgt. David Shoemaker of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station said investigators have been working through what factors played into the crash, such as whether drugs/alcohol and/or street racing were contributing components to the crash.
“The collision is only one vehicle versus a parked tractor,” said Shoemaker. “(But) because we’re looking to see if there was a potential for road racing, we have a second vehicle that we’ve taken in for evidence.”
Courtesy surveillance footage provided to The Signal on Monday shows what are believed to be two vehicles — one Volkswagen sedan and one black Honda Fit — possibly street racing on the road.
Although the video does not show the crash itself, it is believed that the footage was taken just before the Volkswagen hit a curb, became airborne, then crashed into a backhoe tractor, before ultimately landing in the backyard of a Sloan Canyon residence.
Investigators say three teenage girls were in the Volkswagen, a driver and two passengers, and one of the passengers sitting in the back seat — who was later identified as Kayla Payan, 17, of Castaic — was killed as a result of the crash. The two other girls in the vehicle were injured and required transportation to the hospital, Los Angeles County Fire Department officials said at the time of the incident.
Shoemaker also confirmed Tuesday the Honda pulled over following the crash, and the three teenage boys — one driver and two passengers — exited the vehicle.
“They stayed at the scene, and a concerned resident there — where the collision occurred — basically let them into their house to help settle down and stay there until the investigator got there to talk to them,” said Shoemaker.
The names of those believed to have been involved in the crash aren’t being released by the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station because they are minors. Shoemaker said the determination of whether the drivers were both properly licensed was still under investigation.
In order for those under the age of 18 to obtain a driver’s license in the state of California, drivers must be at least 16 years old and have held an instruction permit for at least six months, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles website. During the first 12 months of having a driver’s license, minors cannot transport passengers under 20 years of age unless accompanied by a parent/guardian, a licensed driving instructor or a California driver 25 years old or older.
The Volkswagen, although extensively damaged, and the Honda both had onboard computers — sometimes referred to as “black boxes” — that could provide important data to investigators, Shoemaker said.
“We have to do search warrants to do a download of her car to basically read the black box on it to see what the car was doing,” said Shoemaker. “That will give us a lot of information on the car, the speed, the braking, the steering, things like that.”
Shoemaker said investigators are still awaiting the completion of the blood toxicology report for the driver of the Volkswagen to determine if drugs/alcohol played a factor in the crash. They’re also exploring whether charges should be recommended for one driver, both drivers or neither.
“We have other, further interviews to do to see what other charges may or may not be applicable,” said Shoemaker. “Regarding the second car, if we believe or if it looks like there was a street race or if it wasn’t a street race … that’s the stuff we have to determine on that one.”
No arrests had been made in connection to the crash as of Tuesday, Shoemaker said. The health status of the driver and passenger in the Volkswagen who were taken to the hospital on Sunday was unavailable as of the publication of this story.