Day three of a police investigation is underway as locals continue to grieve the loss of three young lives following a tragic accident that took place on Andover Dr. and Glenoaks Blvd. on Tuesday, August 3.
A press release from the Burbank Police Department stated that two of three vehicles involved in the accident, a Kia and Mercedes Benz, appeared to be engaging in street racing when a Volkswagen was hit while turning left onto Andover Dr. The crash killed three of four innocent passengers in the Volkswagen: 19-year-old Natalee Moghaddam of Calabasas, 20-year-old Jaiden Johnson of Burbank, and 21-year-old Cerain Baker of Pasadena, a John Burroughs High School graduate and son of actor and comedian Tony Baker.
Every night since the crash took place, locals have gathered at the scene of the accident to honor Natalee Moghaddam, Jaiden Johnson, and Cerain Baker through candlelight vigils.
Jaiden Johnson, an emerging music producer, would have turned 21 years old on August 28. He spent his childhood in Florida and moved to Burbank after graduating from high school. C.J. Johnson, Jaiden Johnson’s father, reflected on his son’s passion for music while at the vigil on Glenoaks Blvd. on Thursday.
“He was making big strides towards his goals,” C.J. Johnson said. “He and Cerain worked together and they were best friends. Cerain was always at my house. I would help both of them. They would make changes [to their music and show them to me.] I was proud of both of them. It’s unfortunate they had to be taken from us.”
Jaiden Johnson’s mother, Nichole Richardson, was also present at the vigil. She flew into Burbank from her residence in Orlando after learning of the accident. Richardson shared memories of Jaiden Johnson’s kindhearted nature and strong work ethic as locals in the area stopped at the vigil and paid their respects.
“He was kind, respectful, never angry. He would never be mean to anybody,” Richardson said of her son. “He was a good kid. He would never hurt a fly. He had his whole life ahead of him. He was murdered by people speeding, racing.”
Vigil attendee Damien Munoz became acquainted with Cerain Baker while he was a freshman football player at Burroughs. At the time, Cerain Baker was a senior class member playing football for the high school and took Munoz under his wing.
“I met him when I first got to high school,” Munoz said. “He had open doors for me. He was like a brother to me and we could relate to so much. He made great music. He was a positive guy.”
Rex Armstrong, who works in Burbank and is a fan of Cerain Baker’s father, also stopped by the crash site. Armstrong voiced his hope that the terrible aftermath of the crash will prevent others from engaging in similar street racing scenarios.
“I came to pay respects because where I work people drift and street race in the parking lot all the time and it is something I’m used to hearing,” Armstrong said. “I’m annoyed by it every night. Hearing the tires screeching and hearing people go by really fast is kind of normal. It’s unfortunate that it happens and infuriating that people do it and risk other people’s lives. To see that this has happened, I hope it shows other people out there who are thinking of doing this kind of thing the damage it causes.”
A 2016 video on sports video site Hudl shows highlights of Cerain Baker’s football skills. During his high school career, he was a receiver at Burroughs who had several stellar performances that rank amongst the best in school history. His 233 receiving yards in a 81-14 win over Glendale in 2017 are the second-most in school history for a single game.
The last major car accident which shook the Burbank community took place in 2013 when a crash on the southbound San Fernando underpass near Scott Rd. resulted in five fatalities. The aftermath from this disastrous scene which took place on Tuesday, however, was unlike any other road accident in which Burbank Police Department Public Information Officer Sgt. Emil Brimway had ever before witnessed.
“Our scene spanned over four to five hundred feet, over two city blocks as far as debris and evidence…[and] the Volkswagen was literally sliced in half,” Brimway said. “Just the carnage and the death toll, unfortunately, in one single incident, [makes it] one of the worst [cases] that I’ve been a part of during my law enforcement career.”
Two others were left with serious injuries, including a fourth occupant of the victims’ Volkswagen vehicle. These survivors currently remain in the hospital and are in stable condition. As the Burbank Police Department enters day three of their investigation of the case, the department’s Public Information Officer, Sgt. Emil Brimway, says that legal ramifications will be determined as their extensive examination continues.
“The investigators have been continuously working on the case tirelessly,” Brimway said. “It’s going to be a very meticulous, detailed and thorough investigation. We’ll provide [all] information to the district attorney’s office to evaluate, review and determine whether or not they’ll be filing charges against the other drivers.”
Brimway noted that the investigation could take anywhere from “several weeks, if not at least a couple more months” to complete as the department awaits information from evaluating agencies. This will include vehicular inspection details and the autopsy results of the three victims.
In response to the accident, the BPD re-released an informative video which was originally posted on their YouTube channel and all social media platforms in March of this year. The video addressed the devastating consequences of illegal street racing and BPD methods of addressing this dangerous behavior. Their social media accounts also include articles on bicycle, pedestrian, and traffic safety. In addition to continuing public education, appropriate enforcement measures will persist throughout the City.
“We have worked, directed, targeted enforcement operations on Glenoaks and citywide,” Brimway said. “That will continue, and I do see that increasing as well.”
Leaders in local government have spoken on the calamitous event throughout the week. Burbank Mayor Bob Frutos released a statement on Friday, August 6, expressing his sympathy for the families of the accident’s victims while stating the importance of educating on the fatal consequences which can come from risky street races.
“Our hearts and thoughts are with the families whose lives have forever been changed due to Tuesday’s senseless accident,” Frutos said in the statement. “We ask you to please be respectful of them as they, and our City, mourn for those lost. City Council and staff look forward to working with all community members to help heal and educate about the dangers of illegal street racing so that we can prevent a tragedy like this from happening again in Burbank.”
Burbank City Council Member Nick Schultz announced on his Twitter account Thursday night that the Council will include a moment of silence to honor the three victims of the crash at their next meeting to take place on Tuesday, August 10. This offering will serve as a remembrance of the three passengers as the community grieves their heartbreaking passings.
“The loss of life this week was a tragedy for the family and friends of the victims, and for the entire community,” Schultz said. “My thoughts are with the family and friends of the victims during this extraordinarily difficult time.”
Schultz conveyed his readiness to lead community-involved discussions on the subject of road safety measures. Implementation of radar speed signs, timed traffic lights and speed bumps are some possible proposals Schultz says he may discuss with the Council as an evaluation of current policies will be examined. Radar speed signs have already begun to be introduced in the area as the City has placed two of these devices on Glenoaks Blvd. this week.
“I want to start the conversation,” Schultz said of Burbank road safety discussions. “I think [it’s] going to be really important…to make sure that the community is getting engaged and that they understand we are listening and we want to hear from them about solutions moving forward. We can’t change what has happened, but we absolutely can work as hard as we can to ensure that a tragedy like this doesn’t happen again.”
While public agencies can use their platforms to inform drivers on the importance of taking vehicular safety precautions, Brimway emphasizes that education also begins at home amongst families and loved ones.
“It’s important for parents to educate their own children, have safety talks with them in regards to being responsible, being careful, slowing down, ensuring that all the kids in the vehicle always wear their seatbelts, and to just drive responsibly and safely,” Brimway said.
This story additionally included contributions from myBurbank Sports Editor Jim Riggio, and Photojournalist Edward Tovmassion and Ross Benson