A Christmas tree fire that killed three pets and sent two humans to the hospital, road closures spurred by the large storm that smacked the county, a fatal hit-and-run that resulted in an arrest and a man intentionally run over and killed near a strip club round out this New Year's holiday roundup.
Three family pets were killed and two people were hospitalized with non-life-threatening smoke inhalation around noon New Year's Eve day (Wednesday) in a Costa Mesa home fire possibly caused by a Christmas tree that was close to a crackling fireplace. A cat and two dogs died in the blaze and a baby and "older woman" were sent to the hospital, according to Costa Mesa Fire Battalion Chief Bill Kershaw. Damage to the home at 338 Hanover Drive was estimated at $500,000 to the structure and $75,000 to the contents.
Up to 400 drought damaged large trees--some up to 60 feet tall and 36 inches in diameter--fell underneath as much as six inches of snow and strong winds that swept through the Cleveland National Forest Wednesda, closing Trabuco Creek Road near Rancho Santa Margarita. Orange County Fire Authority hand crews were sent to the scene to clear the road mostly of oaks and some sycamores that either fell down entirely or suffered large limbs falling off them, according to Capt. Steve Concialdi. Trees and branches also fell on cabins in the Holy Jim and Upper Trabuco Canyon area. Meanwhile, Ortega Highway in eastern Orange County remained closed Wednesday after motorists caught in the snow dump were stranded overnight. The closure extended for a 20-mile stretch between San Juan Capistrano and Lake Elsinore in Riverside County.
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A man was found dead in the roadway on Pacific Coast Highway in Newport Coast just before 3 a.m. New Year's Day (Thursday), but the driver suspected of mowing the 23-year-old down and leaving the scene was arrested minutes later in Laguna Beach. The body of Travis Marton of Valencia was found on Highway 1 near the Newport Coast Drive signal, prompting Newport Beach Police to put out an alert, according to Jennifer Manzella, the department spokeswoman. Ten minutes later, Laguna Beach Police pulled over a vehicle for a different infraction, noticed the front-end damage and ultimately arrested Ronald Lloyd Aviles. The 56-year-old San Clemente resident was booked on felony hit and run and held in Newport Beach's jail in lieu of $50,000 bail. Witnesses are asked to call Newport Beach Police at 949.644.3746.
A man who had been involved in an altercation with someone in the parking lot shared by a Del Taco and Imperial Show Girls in Anaheim was later intentionally run over and killed early Thursday, according to police. Cops were dispatched to the scene at 3:20 a.m. and found a man lying in the parking lot, according to Lt. Bob Dunn, the Anaheim Police spokesman. The victim was taken to UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, where he was pronounced dead at 6:22 a.m., according to the county coroner, who identified him as 26-year-old Davoriol Wright. Police are investigating the death as a homicide but have no description of the suspect or suspect vehicle, said Dunn, who asked anyone with information to call 855.847.6227.