8-month-old boy dies in U.S. 101 accident

Morgan Hill
– An 8-month-old Watsonville boy was killed in a solo-vehicle
traffic accident on Highway 101 just north of Dunne Avenue.
The Sunday afternoon accident is under investigation by
California Highway Patrol, but it appears the baby, Romeo Cornejo,
was not in a car safety seat, although there was one in the
vehicle, police said.
Morgan Hill – An 8-month-old Watsonville boy was killed in a solo-vehicle traffic accident on Highway 101 just north of Dunne Avenue.

The Sunday afternoon accident is under investigation by California Highway Patrol, but it appears the baby, Romeo Cornejo, was not in a car safety seat, although there was one in the vehicle, police said.

The driver and four other passengers, all Watsonville residents, were in seat belts and suffered non life-threatening injuries.

The accident occurred about 3pm Sunday, when Janet Cornejo, 19, was driving a Ford Bronco south on 101 at the speed limit, according to CHP, when the left rear tire blew. Cornejo lost control of the Bronco, which then veered off the highway and flipped once, striking the steel center divider.

The 8-month-old was partially ejected from the Bronco as a result of the collision.

A 2-year-old boy who was in a car seat suffered lacerations to the head and was flown by CALSTAR to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose.

Humberto Cornejo, 24, of Watsonville, was also flown to VMC and treated for a skull fracture and cuts.

Carlos Cornejo, 18, received minor lacerations and was treated at VMC. A 12-year-old boy was treated at VMC for minor cuts. The driver was treated for minor cuts.

The victims appeared to be family members, but CHP officer Matt Ramirez said exact relationships were not clear.

“This is an emotional time for the family,” he said. “They are going through a tragedy right now … For all of us, as officers, it is also a tragedy. Many of us have children, and to see a child seriously injured, or killed, it very personally affects us, affects all the rescue personnel.”

Ramirez said neither drugs nor alcohol were a factor in the fatal accident, but because of the fatality, a report would be sent to the District Attorney’s Office. The decision to file charges of manslaughter or whatever is appropriate rests with the DA.

“Normally when there is a death and the report deems it possibly could have been prevented, that would be a good case for charges,” Ramirez said. “We don’t want to add to the family’s tragedy, but we want to know why, if there was a second car seat in the vehicle, the baby wasn’t restrained. If the 2-year-old was restrained, why wasn’t the baby?”

It is not clear at this point, Ramirez said, if the 8-month-old was originally in the car seat which may not have been attached correctly or malfunctioned. The investigation is continuing, he said.

CHP officers instruct drivers how to install correctly car seats, free of charge, and will install them if requested. Ramirez said an improperly installed car seat may not protect the child. To schedule an appointment, call the local CHP office at 848-2324.

Because the accident involved a death, officers were extremely thorough in processing the scene, Ramirez said. Though at least one southbound lane of Highway 101 was open, the traffic bottleneck extended north past Coyote Creek at one point. Traffic did not completely clear for at least two hours.

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