2008-04-17 / Front Page

Fatal crash left one dead, three injured and hundreds devastated

By Nancy Needham nancy@theacorn.com

By Nancy Needham  nancy@theacorn.com

BILL SPARKES/Acorn Newspapers A SOLEMN MOMENT--Olga Alexendrova, 15, of Newbury Park kneels at a roadside memorial for Cody Murphy in Malibu. The 17-year-old Newbury Park High School student died in a single-vehicle wreck on Pacific Coast Highway, south of Encinal Canyon, on April 8.
Newbury Park High School principal Athol Wong said she's doing the best she can to help the hundreds of saddened children at her school survive the shock of losing a popular athlete after a car crash on Pacific Coast Highway last week. Counselors have been brought to the school, and families, staff and students are supporting each other.

In a protective tone, she said she's disturbed by the misinformation reported that the smashed 2007 Subaru Impreza Cody James Murphy was driving when it crashed into a mountain was going on display at Newbury Park High School, 456 N. Reino Road.

"That is patently false. I have repeatedly refused the offer to have that car brought on campus," she said.

Police said the car flipped over several times before ending up on its roof in the middle of the road. The car's owner has offered to give the car to the high school, said Sgt. Philip Brooks, the traffic officer at the scene of the crash. Brooks, who works with educating youth to not drink and drive, said he thought displaying the car would be a good idea with prom and graduation coming up.

According to authorities, the car was traveling about 90 mph in a 55 mph zone before control was lost shortly after 10 p.m. April 8. Five 17-year-olds, all NPHS students, were in the car, none of whom appeared to be wearing seat belts at the time of the accident, according to police. The sole girl is a senior from Camarillo--the boys all juniors from Newbury Park.

Brooks, from the Malibu/Lost Hills Station, said alcohol could be smelled at the scene and an empty bottle of liquor and evidence of marijuana were found inside the car. He also said one youth told investigators the students were drinking near the Santa Monica Pier before the accident.

Brooks said Murphy died instantly at the scene. The four others in the accident helped each other out of the upsidedown car. The girl was airlifted to UCLA Medical Center, where she's being treated for head injury. As of Monday morning she was awake and responsive.

One boy has a spinal injury. Another boy has a broken pelvis. Both have been released from UCLA Medical Center. The boy in the front passenger seat was treated at the scene and released to his parents, Brooks said.

On Saturday, hundreds of people, mostly teenagers, attended a memorial service for Murphy at Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village.

Wong explained why the high school has canceled the reenactment of a fatal car accident portion of the "Every 15 Minutes" program scheduled at the school next week.

"Every 15 Minutes" is part of a health class curriculum presented in the spring every year, alternating between NPHS and Thousand Oaks High School. The program's title refers to the statistic that every 15 minutes someone dies from a crash involving alcohol.

"We have a very emotional climate right now with raw nerves and fragile emotions as our students have just attended a funeral--a real funeral. In the reenactment they stage what we have lived in real life," Wong said.

The reenactment usually includes the staging by police of a car crash, with police, sirens, helicopters, ambulances and the emotions surrounding what happens during a fatal alcohol-related car accident. Classmates, who are selected in advance, have "died" in the crash. They disappear from school. Even though it's all pretend, students often react with real emotions and lots of tears as the drama unfolds.

Wong said she's working with others on possibly including the educational component of "Every 15 Minutes" during an assembly at the school if a quality program can be put together.

See related photos in Community section.

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