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Family sues County, Rainbow Water over Marine's fatal accident in Bonsall

The County of San Diego and Rainbow Water District (RMWD) have had a claim filed against them by the parents of a Marine, who say that their daughter’s death could have been avoided.

On April 22, 22-year-old Samantha Schultz, a resident of Temecula, was driving her gray Mazda eastbound on Camino del Rey in Bonsall, just east of Golf Club Drive, just after 5 p.m. when she lost control of her vehicle and struck a telephone pole, officers of the California Highway Patrol reported. Emergency responders were called, and Schultz was airlifted by Mercy Air to Palomar Medical Center.

Schultz suffered major injuries, and died at Palomar Medical Center at approximately noon on April 23.

According to CHP public information officer Eric Newbury, there was no indication that either alcohol or drug use played a role in the accident. In a news report regarding the collision, Newbury said that the only determined factor in the collision was that the roadway was wet. Roger Booth from the Law Offices of Booth & Koskoff, representing Schultz’ parents Keith Schultz and Tobie Deala, has alleged that the fatal accident was the result of a chronic flooding problem on Camino del Rey, in combination with the placement of a utility pole too close to the roadway.

“[Schultz] was actually a driver for the Marine Corps., and knew a lot about cars,” said Booth. “It had seemed unusual to her parents that she would be in a single auto collision.”

On June 29, the firm served the county with a claim of $10,000,000, to include general and special damages, the exact amount of each unknown.

“The flooding problem had existed for a number of years prior to Ms. Schultz’ accident, and the governmental entities responsible for the design, construction and maintenance of the roadway and surrounding areas were aware of it, but had unreasonably failed to take any serious steps to address it,” the claim stated.

The claim also states that the governing entities failed to add appropriate drainage facilities or to elevate the roadway in order to keep water from pooling on surface. In addition, it is claimed that the entities failed repeatedly to post warning signs or close the road when flooding occurred, including on the day of the subject accident.

“Because the flooding occurred even when it was not currently raining and when other parts of Camino Del Rey were dry, motorists had no reason to suspect that the roadway would be flooded in and around Golf Club Dr. and Via Maria Elena, or that they would need to slow down in order to avoid an accident,” the claim stated.

With the speed limit for the area posted at 50 mph, Booth believes that the amount of water present during and after rainstorms, combined with the speed element, could result in catastrophic situations.

Booth stated that when he went to the collision scene two weeks later, the road was still “very much flooded,” despite the fact that it hadn’t rained in the area recently.

In addition to the rainwater on the roadway, a metal utility vault cover was located on the roadway in the flooded area, which the claim stated lowered the coefficient of friction on the roadway and added to the risk of hydroplaning and loss of control. The governmental entities also allowed utility poles to be too closely placed to the roadway, it stated, where they may pose a threat to motorists who left the roadway for any reason, including hydroplaning.

“The CHP was very thorough in their investigation, and stated that the reason for the collision was that Schultz was going too fast, which is typical for these types of cases,” said Booth. “They were looking at the driver for the error.”

RMWD general manager Dave Seymour stated that while the water district has been named on the claim, there are no facilities of the district’s that could be considered liable in the case.

“We have a waterline in the area; it will be up to the court to decide if it was in any way liable,” said Seymour, who stated that the utility vault on the roadway may belong to San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E). “I do feel badly for the families that are involved,” he added.

Attempts to reach SDGE and the Office of County Council for comment on this matter have been unsuccessful as of press time.

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