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Riverside Car Accident Kills Child in DUI Case


A Hemet man has been arrested on suspicion of felony drunk driving and vehicular manslaughter in connection with a Riverside car accident that killed 5-year-old Taane Unga of Sun City, the North County Times reports. Steven Neil Peterson, 53, apparently caused the fatal car accident the night of May 10, 2009 on the 215 Freeway, which left Taane Unga dead and two other teenagers with major personal injuries. Peterson was on Interstate 215 near Harley Knox Boulevard in a Kia Rio when he tried to change lanes. After realizing that he was about to hit another car, Peterson swerved and lost control of his car slamming into Mazda MPV minivan.

The minivan lost control. Both vehicles slid sideways with the minivan rolling over and going off the freeway. Unga was ejected from the minivan and was pronounced dead at the scene. Two other children — a 15-year-old and a 16-year-old — suffered major personal injuries, California Highway Patrol officials said. The driver of the minivan suffered minor injuries.

My heart goes out to everybody who knew and loved this little boy, Taane Unga. I offer my deepest sympathies to this family for their sudden, tragic and heartbreaking loss. Please keep them in your prayers. I wish the two injured teenagers the very best for a quick and complete recovery. I trust the suspected drunk driver in this case will soon be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

According to the California Highway Patrol’s 2007 traffic accident statistics, there were two deaths and 25 injuries reported as a result of DUI car accidents in Perris. In Riverside County, in 2007, 129 deaths and 1,279 injuries were reported as a result of DUI-related car accidents.

It is a crime in the state of California to driver under the influence of alcohol or drugs, per California Vehicle Code section 23152. California Penal Code section 191.5 (a) states: Gross vehicular manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought, in the driving of a vehicle… and the killing was either the proximate result of the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, and with gross negligence, or the proximate result of the commission of a lawful act that might produce death, in an unlawful manner, and with gross negligence.”

There is no question Peterson should be held criminally and civilly responsible for the loss, damages and heartache he has caused this family. Taane Unga’s family and the family of the two injured victims would be well advised to seek the services of experienced California car accident lawyers, who will help hold the negligent parties accountable and secure justice and fair compensation.

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