When police told Joseph Viriza that his wife had been hit by a car and killed the day after Thanksgiving by a motorist who plowed through a stop sign in their quiet Pasadena neighborhood, he He first asked if he was suffering.
He assured her that 33-year-old Yang Liu’s death was immediate.
The second question he asked was, “Where’s the driver?” He said he declined to provide the information.
“At that point I should have asked a lot more questions, but I just fell apart,” Virija, 35, said on Monday.
Around 11 a.m., Liu set out for a walk along a route she’d taken several times before. It usually took her about half an hour to complete it, so when she didn’t return by noon, Virija texted her. About two hours later he tried calling.
They called 20 to 30 times until a police officer picked up around 5 pm and said that they would deliver the news in person. Virija broke out in a cold sweat and trembled, already preparing herself for a worst-case scenario.
“It was a roller coaster of emotions, from fear to maybe a little bit of hope, to just being disappointed and heartbroken,” he said.
When officers arrived around 6 or 7 p.m., he said, he steeled himself as best he could.
Lieutenant Anthony Russo of the Pasadena Police Department said it appeared the 20-year-old driver of a BMW 328i collided with Liu at the intersection of Allen Avenue and San Pascal Street at around 11:19 p.m. ,
Police believe the driver, whose name was not released, was driving over the 30 mph speed limit.
Paramedics were called, but Liu died on the spot from a serious head injury, Rousseau said. The intersection is about 1½ miles from Wirija, the home shared by Liu and their two dogs.
The driver was not arrested or cited. Rousseau said police were conducting an investigation to determine whether there was criminal negligence, which would prompt the case to be presented to the district attorney, he said.
Virija expressed her disappointment. He wants more information about the driver and feels that the investigation can be completed sooner than the three to six months police told him it might take.
“We just want no one else to go through what we have to go through,” he said.
Rousseau said investigations into fatal collisions could take weeks, months, sometimes more than a year.
Rousseau said, “You certainly never want to tell someone too early, and then they’re looking for an answer and … you don’t have to.” can be filed.
Meanwhile, Virija is trying to grapple with the void left by his wife’s death.
“It was too short for a wedding,” Virija said of the five-year union. “She was definitely my soulmate; She was everything to me.”
For the past three days, he said, he can barely eat and sleep for about five hours in total. He said that he thought of taking his own life and had to throw sleeping pills. His mom is from Singapore “to make sure I’m not doing anything stupid,” and friends are stopping by every few hours. Her in-laws have also arrived from the Bay Area, where Liu grew up.
“She was a very strong and talented woman, a great wife and daughter,” said Virija, head of finance at a fintech company.
Liu quit her job in investment banking to pursue her dream of working in the media industry and most recently was working with Amazon Studios’ content strategy team as a senior manager, Wirija said.
Since 2007, the city of Pasadena has received eight requests to look into traffic safety issues in the area where Liu died, said Lisa Derderian, a spokeswoman for the city.
Requests for stop signs, crosswalks and speed humps were made and several actions were taken to address them, along with “general safety concerns”, he said in an email.
Among other things, in 2009, the city installed a sign warning motorists to stop ahead at Allen and installed a crosswalk on all four legs of the intersection. A year later, stencils warning drivers of oncoming stops were added, and the size of the stop sign was increased.
The number of speeding incidents, collisions and pedestrians appears to be increasing in Pasadena, as well as in nearby Burbank and Glendale, Rousseau said. There have been nine fatal collisions in Pasadena this year, including seven on pedestrians, the latter of which he called “a huge number.”
In the past five years, there have been two vehicle-to-vehicle accidents at the intersection of Allen and San Pascal – in 2017 and 2020 – and neither have been any serious injuries.
Rousseau said the number of collisions in that time frame is not significant compared to other intersections, although he did not discount this as a problem.
He believes this recent collision could have been prevented.
“If the speed had been slow and the party driving the vehicle had noticed the signage and stopped for the sign, this collision would not have happened,” he said.