By Andrea Swayne

The investigation into an April 8 car crash in Dana Point that resulted in the death of a man is ongoing, authorities said.

Thomas Raith, 69, of Dana Point died at the scene, shortly before 3 p.m. when his Chrysler PT Cruiser was hit broadside by a Cadillac Escalade at the corner of Golden Lantern and Selva Road.

According to Lt. Russ Chilton, Dana Point chief of police, Raith was making a left turn onto Golden Lantern from Selva when the Escalade hit his vehicle broadside, on the driver’s side.

The man driving the Cadillac was transported to the hospital and is believed not to have sustained serious injury.

“The Major Accident Reconstruction Team is continuing its investigation,” Sgt. Rich Himmel of Dana Point Police Services, said. “Because this is an ongoing criminal investigation, the District Attorney’s will not publicly identify the driver of the Escalade until charges are filed.”

Witnesses called police to report seeing a vehicle matching the description of the Escalade running red lights shortly before the crash and investigators have spoken to a number of witnesses who were at the scene.

According to Himmel, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department is awaiting results of toxicology reports for the Escalade driver, identified at this time only as an adult male.

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comments (75)

  • I saw the April 8th car crash just after it happened. It was awful. I hope Eye on DP will continue to follow up with news concerning the Escalade driver. Every accident I’ve seen in this area have been violent and had serious injuries. It would be nice to hear of an outcome.

  • I too saw the aftermath. It was horrific. I don’t understand why the News can’t go to the Sheriff and purchase an accident report. Isn’t that public information? I can think of many accidents where names were identified and later charged. It smells funny.

    • I, and a number of my friends feel the same way. Why were the # plates of the Escalade covered over with brown paper after the accident? I was the third car in line to make the turn onto Golden Lantern, also I live right above the crash site and

      • That sounds very mysterious.

        • That is what we all think. I read that two men who beat up a police officer in Huntington Beach in Feb of this year, one has already been convicted for 16 years in prison. I wish I had more confidence in the DA’s office.

  • Many residents would like some resolution to this horrible fatal accident in our town.
    Come on DP times. Please shed some light on this mess!

  • Black escalades are used by people who can afford them and in this case who is going out their way to not be known for having killed someone with reckless driving and who knows what else.

  • How has this story not been updated yet? nothing has come up from this investigation and the party responsible has not been named? You’re journalists and its your societal duty to present the facts and facilitate the discourse between the police and the public. The family of Mr. Raith deserve better.

    • The investigation is ongoing and the case requires extensive work—reviewing everything from info collected by the vehicles’ onboard computer, skid marks (or lack of skid marks), damages to the vehicles, surveillance camera footage, toxicology, etc., authorities said.

      It could take some time for the DA’s office to make a determination whether to indict, according to Sgt. Rich Himmel of the Dana Point Police Services/Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

      “Since no arrest was made at the scene and this is an active investigation, the driver’s name has not been released,” Himmel said on May 18. “Should the driver be arrested or charged, his name will become public record. The case is being investigated as a possible vehicular manslaughter.”

      Stay tuned for updates.

      Note: Releasing a name could result in the case being tried in “the court of public opinion,” which could be potentially damaging to any potential case brought against the driver.

      Just as an example, recall the case of another fatal crash we covered in the tri-city area, when Kelly Michelle Wolfe of Dana Point struck and killed Marthann Demchuk on July 4, 2013 on El Camino Real/Coast Highway near Camino Capistrano. Wolfe was arrested shortly after the crash but was released and not charged. Formal charges were not filed until August 2014 and she wasn’t sentenced until November 2015.

  • So many people witnessed the crash at 2:55pm in clear daylight. I cannot believe the driver of the Escalade is still able to drive around in our community. The driver of the Escalade must have been driving at over 8o miles per hour when he hit the PT Cruiser. A witness told me the driver was on a cell phone when he hit the PT Cruiser. I understand from another witness that the Escalade driver drove through a red light at Stonehill before driving through the light at Selva and Golden Lantern killing Mr.Raith instantly. I was the 3rd car after Mr.Raith’s car. The left hand turn arrow was green for at least the count of 7 seconds before Mr. Raith made the turn. I did not see the Escalade hit the PT Cruiser, but I did see debris flying over 30 feet into the air.

  • Well . . . that makes sense that the d.a. would not release a name. How about some good journalism? Interview people? Look up the license plate number owner? Get a copy of the accident report? Look up records. Geez, I could figure this one out, and I’m not a reporter. How was it that this driver was whisked away, with no trace of identity? I can think of gazillions of accidents covered in newspapers where drivers are identified by reporters. The neighborhood is asking for accountability in reporting and news.

    • Thank you Julie. My friend and myself are very upset by this accident.

      Totally avoidable had the Escalade driver been obey some basic road rules. The speed limit on Golden Lantern is too high.

      Driving from Ralph’s market by CVS down GL at 40 miles per hour, I am continually harassed by drivers overtaking me. The entire street has homes all the way to Dana Harbor Drive, + there is a high school. I thought residential streets require a 35 mile and hour limit. What is wrong with Dana Point police? I see them on GL as they turn into the police station, but not after that. Maybe once a month I see them on GL, but usually when school lets out.

  • All of the comments are asking (in different ways) for the DP times to at least contact the
    Dana Point sheriff’s office and get some information. Having been in a serious accident with a lunatic driver and having to deal with the sheriff I know it can be difficult.
    But that’s what you’re supposed to do, deal with it.

  • It’s July 6 now and we’re supposed to all have forgotten the crime mystery of who killed this man in own neighborhood.

  • I can’t think of another tragic car accident in a news report that did not have the drivers’ names released within a few days, and unfortunately too many of these stories are in the news every day. This is ridiculous. Who killed Thomas Raith?!

  • It’s heartening to know that at least one person remembers this horrible car debacle.
    I had hoped that we would at least see more police enforcing traffic laws on Golden Lantern
    but it’s still a dangerous race track with no regard for traffic laws.

    • Yes Ron it is, and getting worst. Why not have a flashing speed sign like the one on Stonehill?

      Julie, the licence was covered with brown paper.

  • Ron, you are right and it is only getting worse. We need speed warnings.
    Julie, the licence plate was covered up.

    • Our street–one of the Lanterns–is a speedway. No monitoring or ticketing. And they might as well take the stop signs and speed bumps away because they don’t make any difference to the high speed of the drivers and safety of the residential street. This tragedy for Mr. Raith is unconscionable. Add to that, the mystery, albeit secrecy.

      • Russ Chilton RE: traffic Accident death 04/09/2016

        Between a Chrysler PT Cruiser and a Black Cadillac Escalade

        Corner of Golden Lantern and Selva Road. Approximately 2:26pm

        I was the third car in line behind The PT Cruiser on Selva Road waiting to turn onto Golden Lantern. I saw a black flash, heard a huge BOOM, and debris flying over 30 feet into the air. I assume the black flash was the speeding black SUV.

        Mr.Reith was driving the silver PT Cruiser. My guess was he died on impact. The Cadillac was going at very high speed through the red light at the corner of Golden Lantern and Selva Road. A witness subsequently told me that the driver of the Black SUV went through the red light at Stonehill, and another witness told me the SUV driver was on a cell phone while driving down Golden Lantern. The witness said that he was driving beside the SUV and saw the SUV driver on his cell phone.

        There were numerous witness to this accident, one being the driver of an older small silver Mercedes who stayed at the scene for over 3 hours. The Mercedes driver was in the right hand land on Golden Lantern waiting to make a right turn onto Selva. He alone must have seen the entire tragedy. The PT cruiser was pushed to within 4 feet of the silver Mercedes.

        I, and a whole lot of people in Dana Point want to know why the driver of the SUV is still able to drive on our streets and has not been named or charged with anything. We know from a tow truck driver that no brakes were applied in the SUV.

        So what is your problem? How much shut and closed does a case have to be to charge the SUV driver and at least get him off our streets?

        Corinne Newell & Mr.Maxi (the dog)

        • I’m glad that at least one person still remembers that shocking day. To witness the Escalade
          run the red light at high speed and kill another law abiding person, well, one just doesn’t
          forget it. We have asked the Dana Point Times to follow up on this and our pleas have brought no
          results. The O.C. Register also printed news of the tragedy but with no follow up.
          Dana Point streets are getting more and more dangerous. People just don’t stop for red lights or
          stop signs. The average speed on Golden Lantern and Niguel Road is over 60mph. What happened to traffic enforcement!

          • You can’t live around here and forget about this tragedy! There was a memorial on the street divider for awhile. I WANT TO KNOW, and some one is hoping that we forget. Who was driving that killer vehicle, and who is keeping who quiet?

  • Who killed Thomas Raith? it’s now the middle of September and still no news has been released regarding the driver of the Escalade. The people of Dana Point and the Raith family deserve better. One is only left thinking that this is a cover-up of some type. I don’t remember ever seeing an accident where the license plate was covered up with brown paper and the uninjured driver was wisked away so quickly. Unfortunately for Mr. Raith and the traumatized witnesses and the people driving by, Mr. Raith sat there in his car for hours. Why have none of the above witnesses been questioned? They’re basically is no question of that drivers guilt, it was witnessed by too many people.

    • I spoke with a very defensive Dana Point Police Sergeant a couple of weeks ago, and he said they do not have the toxicology results back yet. Honestly, I find it hard to believe. Six weeks is the usual time for toxicology results. I bet the Rait family appreciate you interest.


  • Perhaps the Grand Jury could investigate. The Grand Jury is made up of regular citizens who can ask hard questions without worrying about their political careers.

    The Grand Jury is not allowed to review specific cases being prepared for hearing in Superior Court of Orange County, so this specific case is off limits. But they can investigate why toxicology tests continue take months to complete, after the Grand Jury has TWICE written reports stating that this was unacceptable. They can also investigate why police officers cover license plates with paper after a collision.

    From the web site: “The Grand Jury does not act as an ombudsman for county citizens. However, the Grand Jury will review all concerns and may produce a study on the issue, if the concern is deemed appropriate. Otherwise, no further action will be taken..”.

    • I was told recently that a current Orange County Supervisor witnessed the accident involving Mr.Raith. I have not idea it that is true or not.

    • It’s also third-world to wait six weeks, or in this case FIVE MONTHS, for toxicology reports. This case smacks funny business, to put it nicely! The citizens and residents deserve better than what the sheriff and local news are dishing out here. Grand Jury, bigger newspapers than this wimpy little rag, what else??

      • Could the delay have something to do with the City election? I was told recently that a current OC Supervisor was a witness to the accident. Humm, gets more interesting every day.

        • Does that mean we’re going to wait until November? Who would that be, and why? I’m not getting notices of the replies on this feed–except occasionally.

        • It’s been almost six months since this murder took place, and the news, nor the sheriff, will identify the suspect. Very unusual. Mysterious. Crooked.

          • We are continuing to check into this accident. The investigation is still ongoing, therefore we don’t have any new information to report.

          • I posted news of a similar collision at the same location (Golden Lantern and Selva Rd.) on 9/27.
            One of the cars was a rollover and was a convertable which means no protection for the drivers
            head. That post got no attention! So we have two collisions, at least one fatal, at the same intersection. Wouldn’t it be basic common sense for the Dana Point Sheriffs to patrol that area more frequently? And to make public the results of their investigation of the first one?
            I guess not. I’m going to buy a crash helmet!

          • Sorry, but I don’t buy the “ongoing investigation” response. Is this a major airliner crash? A bus crash killing 13 people? A scientific test that needed to be sent to Mars? Turtles are the investigators? Or, is it legal wrangling, cover-up, and stall? Why was the license plate covered, and the driver of the hit vehicle whisked to the hospital in an ambulance and then release with no identification provided. Drivers of accident vehicle are identified routinely in the press.

            Further, the Lantern streets are freeways–the cars go so fast I can hardly see them pass. We LIVE on these streets. Our children play here. Thousands attend and walk to neighborhood schools.

            How can our public employees and elected “officials” NOT be paying attention to this?????

  • I want to inform the folks who have been concerned about the fatal collision at Golden Lantern and Selva that another collision took place this afternoon Tues. 9/27. One car, a convertible, was
    upside down(laying on it’s roof). It was facing the wrong way on Golden Lantern. The ambulance was just leaving as I arrived so I don’t know the condition of the driver. The other vehicle was less
    damaged but still pretty bad. It was pretty awful!

    • Golden Lantern is a speed track It should be a rated as a residential zone. + business district speed zone. I know the police read this page, so why do they do something about the speed.? They have a permanently installed sign on Stonehill to warn of speeding, why not Golden Lantern?

      A couple of Days ago I was waiting for a green light at the Crn of Selva and Golden Ltn, going north/east. I had my right flasher going to warn I was making immediate right turn into the W.P. complex and a crazy driver just zoomed through on my right and then moved into the left lane. What a shock. Where are the police at 3pm in the afternoon and golden Lantern

  • I’m sorry to hear this and hoping that there weren’t injuries. I also wish that the sheriff department monitored speed[ing] on our residential streets. It’s out of control–obviously!

  • Just wrote an email hoping it will be published. As a pedestrian walking my dogs I have been so close to being run over crossing PCH by autos turning left and not stopping for me. The closest happened this morning., I’m still in shock! All incidences that I’ve experienced have been reported to the Police Dept. here in DP.

  • It’s time for an answer. 2016 is almost over. Dana Point Times????? Have you decided to not report on this ini spite of comments and requests for answers?

    • Something is very wrong with this INVESTIGATION.

    • We have been checking into this, but if the police say the investigation is still ongoing there is no new information for us to report. We will continue to check into it.

      • This is ridiculous. Has anyone EVER heard of a car accident investigation taking over 6 months??! I didn’t know Mr. Raith, but I think of him and his family all the time. It’s time for some answers NOW!

          • Someone should bring this case up at the next DP city council meeting during public comments. We have two new council members who will understand how the secrecy surrounding this incident and the length of the “traffic investigation” undermines the public’s right for information and justice in Dana Point. The city is a client of the Sheriffs department and has a right and obligation to compel the department to perform its duty to the public in timely manner. This case get more press attention if your comments are presented on the record in a public forum.

      • Checking into it? Does that mean asking and accepting the answer? Is there an investigative journalist that can look into it?

  • I think of this tragedy every time I drive through the intersection of Selva and Golden Lantern, which is daily! And when I see a racing car driving down Golden Lantern, which is also daily.

  • I have always thought it was 35 miles per hour in a residential zone. Driveways and houses all down the St or the Golden Lantern. Crazy drivers in powerful SUV’s and Cars

  • The Orange County sheriff, Sandra Hutchens, lives here in Dana Point. Let’s ask for a comment
    from her.

    • Good idea – whatever can bring closure to this. It is absolutely ABSURD this is taking so long – my heart goes out to his family – my brain questions what is REALLY going on..

  • DP Times – I just looked up Mr. Raith on several of those “public records” web sites including Intellius and Spokeo.. They list the names of his family members and, for $50.00 the site will provide contact information.

    This sounds like it has the potential to be the kind of story that investigative journalists dream of. I ask, with respect; Are you reporters or are you journalists? Surely there is a young, fresh out of college reporter who takes her/his 1st Amendment responsibilities seriously.

  • Mr. Raith lived on Chula Vista. Just type in his name and his address will come up.

  • Are we “there” yet? We’re not going to forget, even now that it’s January. Especially now as cars speed down Blue Lantern at 50 or 60, at least, on a normal basis.. ‘Might as well take the stop signs down as few regard them. Crashes waiting to happen. Again.

    • I’m glad that people are continuing to ask for a thorough resolution to the April car crash. It does look pretty bleak for those of us seeking an answer to our questions. Meanwhile, I keep seeing more collisions around the same area of Dana Point.

    • I’m not one who goes for conspiracy theories, but this sure smacks of a cover-up. Maybe a call to the local FBI would help. If Carona, who was a good guy, went to jail for using a helo “to enrich himself”, then covering up a manslaughter case should be a slam dunk.
      Don’t let the current national news distract from this VERY disturbing local issue. . What is occurring here is unprecedented. Use the power of social media to spread the word about this case.

      • The new city council has email addresses available for contacting them. I’ve forwarded this last DP Times comment to the new mayor with the hope that we can hear some answers into this cover up about this horrific accident, covered license plates, 10-month long lab results and investigations, and silence.

        • Thank you. Maybe we should hold a protest on Sunday April 9th at the 4 corners, Golden Lantern and Selva and call the TV channels.

          • Francis, that is an excellent idea. April 9th is a Sunday, which is the best day to get people out on the street for 90 minutes, but not for broadcast media coverage. The one year anniversary will be Saturday, the 8th, which is even worse for coverage. Social media, however, is a powerful tool, and I will post announcements to the local FB groups. I will wait until about March 8th; one month should be the right amount of time to inform people without overdoing it. We need a leader to coordinate this, and contact media. The person responsible for this tragedy is out there driving around as if nothing happened. If the driver was a foreign diplomate claiming immunity he/she is probably already back in their own country, But the public has a right to know.

          • I think a vigil on April 9th is a fabulous idea and I am willing to go along with my husband and I will bring my family because we witnessed the aftermath of this accident and my family knows how upset we were that he was left there for so many hours. I’m ashamed to say we also have photos.

        • What came out your your contact with the Mayor ?

          • Nada. 11-month “anniversary” yesterday. I guess we’re depending upon this rag to publish answers. What other way(s) can a citizen get information?

  • This accident happened on April 9th not the 8th. This reporter got the date wrong.

  • Less than a month now until the one year anniversary of this tragedy. Still no identification of the person who killed Thomas Raith. I still think of him and his family all the time. I have not forgetten. No one thus far has been able to get any answers. Mr. Raith’s family and the people of Dana Point need to know who killed him. I am so upset by this cover up.

    • We all are upset and worried that the driver of the SUV has been able to escape justice for this long. How much longer can this D.A. and police service take. An attorney once told me there is no such thing as Justice. The driver of the SUV must be some mucky, mucky or relative of a mucky, mucky. Come on D.P. police you know who it is, and you have the test for the driver and his SUV for almost 10 month.. We know it was a slim man, wearing dockers and a blue shirt. So what is his name?

  • We all are upset and worried that the driver of the SUV has been able to escape justice for this long. How much longer can this D.A. and police service take. An attorney once told me there is no such thing as Justice. The driver of the SUV must be some mucky, mucky or relative of a mucky, mucky. Come on D.P. police you know who it is, and you have the test for the driver and his SUV for almost 10 month.. We know it was a slim man, wearing dockers and a blue shirt. So what is his name?

  • I think a vigil on April 9th is a fabulous idea and I am willing to go along with my husband and I will bring my family because we witnessed the aftermath of this accident and my family knows how upset we were that he was left there for so many hours. I’m ashamed to say we also have photos.

    • My sense is that this would be appropriate and a great idea IF the family agrees. And who knows who the family includes?!

  • The family may even join us. I know they are following our comments

    • Family members have access to the accident report. I assume that the insurance companies and legal team have kept them informed and as satisfied as possible under the circumstances. I’m sensitive, as much as I can be anyway, to their feelings.

  • Julie, you do what you want to do,

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