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On a wreck and a prayer

June 01, 2002

Ryan Carter

MAGNOLIA PARK -- Students at Burroughs High School arrived one morning

this week to find a mangled Pontiac Grand Prix cordoned off behind yellow

tape on the front lawn of their school.

"It's gross!" student Alicia Lukasiak said of the deformed auto, its

entire front end smashed like an accordion. But she also got the

message.

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"When I drive, I won't speed," the 17-year-old said.

That was the message police hoped to send Tuesday when they took the

car out of the police impound lot and took it to the school. It will

later be moved to Burbank High School.

Cesar Gonzalez, the 23-year-old driver of the car, died of severe

internal injuries April 30 when his car slammed into a concrete wall

under the Golden State (5) Freeway on San Fernando Boulevard, near the

Lincoln Street offramp. He was a police explorer as a teen.

With permission from Gonzalez's family, police used the car as a

reminder of the dangers of speeding. Witnesses told police the car was

going 85 to 90 mph at the time of the wreck. The speed limit in that

stretch is 35 mph.

Burbank Police Officer Kerry Schilf, who was among the first to

respond to the scene, came up with the idea of displaying the car.

"I just thought, what a perfect example of the consequences of driving

recklessly," he said. "If there was a way to turn a tragedy into

something that might possibly save someone's life, I think that Cesar

would have wanted that." His family agreed. In front of the car is a

picture of Gonzalez, and a note that reads, "It is [the family's] hope

that by being able to look at the mangled wreckage of their son's car,

you will make the decision to drive safely."

It wasn't lost on students who sauntered by the wreckage.

"It makes you think twice about what you do after prom," said senior

Gian Guenther, 17.

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