SAN FERNANDO WOMAN KILLED IN WORK ACCIDENT.
SAN FERNANDO - She may have stood only 5 feet tall, but Guadalupe Sanchez was a stout woman with tough resolve.
In her raincoat and sweat pants, she would trudge out of her San Fernando home every night to work a graveyard shift on Los Angeles city buses at a Pacoima maintenance yard.
She would return in the early morning hours, exhausted but happy to see her two daughters and four grandchildren.
But on Thursday she didn't come home.
Sanchez, 54, had been hosing down the exterior of an L.A. Department of Transportation DASH bus when a co-worker accidentally hit the accelerator of another bus and pinned Sanchez between both vehicles. She died from her injuries.
The incident shocked co-workers and plunged a family into mourning.
``I miss her,'' said her daughter, Claudia Garcia, 27. ``She was my mother. She loved us all. She tried her best to keep us happy.''
Garcia explained the tragedy to the four grandchildren, ages 1 to 9, by telling them simply, ``Grandma went to the sky with God.''
Sanchez worked as a cleaning technician for Coach USA Transit Services, contracted by the city's Department of Transportation.
``It's a terrible loss right before the holidays,'' said Coach USA spokesman Lee Schissler. ``She was a caring, humble and kind person. She was really grateful to have a job. She never took days off from work except when she went to visit family in Mexico.''
Los Angeles Police Department Capt. Greg Meyer, still reeling from a series of recent holiday traffic deaths, expressed sorrow for the family.
``This is clearly a terrible tragedy,'' he said. ``It's a very upsetting situation for everyone involved.''
According to investigators, Sanchez was washing a bus at 1 a.m. Thursday with her back to another bus, which was positioned about 15 feet behind her.
Co-worker Mercedes Perez, 54, was preparing the second bus for a wash and began to move it, said LAPD Detective Bill Bustos, a Valley Traffic Division detective supervisor.
Perez's wet boot slipped from the brake to the accelerator, causing the bus to lunge forward and crush Sanchez.
Paramedics transported Sanchez to Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills where she was pronounced dead at 2:30 a.m., police said.
``Obviously, there was no intent,'' Bustos said. ``It just seems like a tragic accident.''
Perez, who lives in Pacoima, is an in-law of Sanchez, family members said.
``She was in tears when she got off bus and realized it happened,'' Bustos said.
Officials with the LADOT scrambled to figure out what went wrong.
``We don't know all the details yet,'' said Jim Lefton, a LADOT spokesman. ``Obviously we need to have further discussions with the police. We don't want to speculate.''
Lefton said Perez is licensed to drive a bus, but he refused to speculate on how the incident occurred.
``It's too early to tell,'' he said.
He said further investigation might suggest implementing additional safety precautions in order to prevent something like this happening again. Intensive bus cleanings occur once a week, Lefton said.
``Fortunately this doesn't happen very often, but when it does happen we're obviously very concerned about the individual and their family,'' Lefton said.
Cal-OSHA officials arrived on the scene after noon Thursday to begin the tedious process of interviewing witnesses, looking at the site, reviewing police reports and operation training procedures.
Cal-OSHA also will check whether Sanchez had the proper training for the hazards of the job. Results from the investigation could be available in two months.
``This is kind of where we will go,'' said Dean Fryer, a OSHA spokesman. ``Any accident that results in a fatality is truly a tragic experience for everyone, especially around holiday times.''
(1 -- color) SANCHEZ
(2) The children of Guadalupe Sanchez, 54 - from left, Frank, Claudia, Maritza and Virginia - grieve for their mom who died in an accident Thursday while working at a bus maintenance yard in Pacoima. The family photo shows their mom, right, and Maritza.
Charlotte Schmid-Maybach/Staff Photographer
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Dec 13, 2002|
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