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Sunday, November 7, 2004

Laredo Morning Times

PAGE 3A

LOCAL/STATE

Police identify auto pedestrian accident victim

BY CELINA ALVARADO Times staff writer

Laredo Police Crash Team investigators said Saturday preliminary results showed “driver inattention” may have been a contributing factor that led to a fatal auto-pedestrian accident which killed a 71- year-old woman in northwest Laredo.

The case remains under investigation.

Celia Gabriel, 71, of the 10200 block of Blitzen, was struck by a 1995 Chevy Suburban with Mexican license plates at about 6:35 p.m. Friday, on a 30 mile per hour road in the Rancho Viejo Subdivision, officials said.

She was declared dead at the scene by Justice of the Peace Oscar Martinez at 7:55 p.m.

Crash Team investigators processed the crime scene and blocked off several streets along Rancho Viejo to investigate.

The driver of the vehicle, San Juana Esmer Barrientos, of the 700 block of Buffalo, was visibly shaken. Four months pregnant, she had

her two children in the vehicle with her when the accident occurred, officials said.

She was transported to Doctor’s Hospital Friday evening for observation.

Witnesses at the scene told officials the pedestrian was crossing from south to north on the 600 block of Rancho Viejo, making her way home from a friend’s house when Barrientos, who was traveling from east to west, struck the pedestrian approximately 63 feet away, from the 300 block of Albany Drive.

Officials said it was too early to determine whether the vic- tim was thrown upon impact or dragged by the vehicle before Barrientos made a complete stop.

Emergency medical person- nel who arrived to assist Gabriel attempted to resusci- tate her but were unable to do so.

A dent on the Suburban showed evidence of the intensity of the impact.

Crash Team investigators said preliminary results showed Gabriel received severe internal injuries and

received much of the damage to her torso. An autopsy will be performed at the Bexar County Forensic Center in San Antonio.

Laredo Police impounded the Suburban for investiga- tion.

Crash Team investigators were busy Saturday investi- gating whether speed was a factor in the accident.

Rancho Viejo residents said the street is a long stretch of road with few stop signs and no speed humps to prevent speeding.

One of the residents, who did not wish to identify him- self, called the area a “drag raceway.”

Witnesses at the scene expressed their concerns to Laredo Police on the matter

Friday evening. Officials said

Barrientos

would not be arrested nor charged with any crime, pending the results of the investigation.

(Times staff writer Celina Alvarado can be reached at 728-2566 or by email at celi- na@lmtonline.com)

Times staff photo by CELINA ALVARADO

INVESTIGATING: Crash Team Investigators Luis E. Raines, Guadalupe Peña, and J.J. Torres, from left, inspect a blood-stained 1995 Chevy Suburban with Mexican license plates late Friday evening at the Laredo Police property room. The Suburban was involved in an auto-pedestrian accident which killed a 71-year-old resident of the Rancho Viejo Subdivision in northwest Laredo.

Texas should spend more to protect abused children

AUSTIN (AP) — Texas should increase its spending to protect abused children to the national average, but finding the extra funding will be difficult, state Sen. Jane Nelson said.

The state currently spends 60 percent less annually than the national average per child. That amounts to about $110 per Texas child versus $277 per child nation- ally.

”I would like to certainly hold the national average up

as a goal and am fully pre- pared to do that,” said Nelson, R-Flower Mound, who is chairwoman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

”I‘m going to be a strong advocate for additional dol- lars reaching our children in need of child protective ser- vices,” she said in Saturday‘s edition of the Houston Chronicle.

Lawmakers would have to find $325 million in state gen- eral revenue each year to

draw enough federal money to catch up with the average. But competition for funds will be fierce, with serious unmet needs in education, criminal justice and health insurance programs for children.

The Department of Family and Protective Services has come under intense scrutiny after the death of several children who were in the state‘s custody.

Also, a Hidalgo County grand jury indicted the department this summer in

connection with a sexual abuse case involving three sisters. And the state has uncovered serious morale, management, training and staffing problems since Gov. Rick Perry ordered an investigation into the Child Protective Services agency.

Nelson said she plans to offer an omnibus bill requir- ing fundamental changes at the embattled department when the Legislature con- venes next year.

”I quite frankly think that if

we only increase the num- ber of caseworkers and do nothing else, we haven‘t done our job,” she said. ”The whole system has got to be reformed. Otherwise, we‘ll be just throwing money into a broken system.”

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