California Highway Patrol officers have recommended that the Imperial County prosecutor charge the driver of an all-terrain vehicle that crashed earlier this year, killing a student cinematographer, with manslaughter.
The police report, obtained by The Times, reveals details of the April 15 crash that killed Peng Wang, a 29-year-old Chapman University film student.
He blamed the accident on USC student Bingliang Li, who was driving the all-terrain vehicle.
Li, 25, violated a section of the California Vehicle Code that prohibits driving off-road vehicles at a speed greater than “reasonable or prudent and in no case at a speed that endangers the safety of others,” according to the report.
Li ‘slowed down [the vehicle] at a speed that caused him to lose his forward momentum,” Constable Javier L. Amezcua wrote in the police report. “The dangerous speed and the perpendicular trajectory of the vehicle to the slope of the sand dune caused [the vehicle] to overturn, which caused [Wang,] who was not restrained, to sustain fatal injuries.
Felix Woo, an attorney representing Li, declined to comment.
“Peng Wang’s death was a horrific tragedy, and our deepest sympathy continues to be with his family members,” USC said in a statement. The university declined to comment on any disciplinary action, citing student privacy laws.
Although it was a USC film production, university officials said they did not authorize the filming and accused the students of violating safety regulations.
“Peng was a beloved member of the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts community,” Chapman University said in a statement. “Our entire Chapman family continues to feel their loss. He will be greatly missed. »
A spokesperson for the Imperial County prosecutor did not respond to a request for comment.
The report sheds more light on the events leading up to the death of the young cinematographer, who had been helping USC students on their film project when he died. The band was shooting a short film when the accident happened on the Imperial Sand Dunes, a remote desert area more than 230 miles from the USC campus.
The California Highway Patrol officer was first alerted at 2:15 p.m. on April 15 that a fatal accident had occurred on the Imperial Sand Dunes. It was a hot, dry and calm day among the large, rolling sand dunes when officers arrived at the scene at 2.40pm, according to the police report. No speed limit was posted there, he noted.
A Can-Am all-terrain vehicle was lying on the right side facing south in the middle of the desert. The four-seater was fitted with a seat belt system which, upon visual inspection, was functional. The right rear seat belt was attached and locked behind the seat, indicating it was not in use during the crash, the officer wrote.
Wang, one of the three passengers, was wearing a scratched helmet on the right side. He had fatal neck injuries and was dead by the time CHP arrived.
Li told officers he left LA the day before the crash around 1 p.m. and arrived in the Glamis area to hire the all-terrain vehicle. He then traveled to Yuma, Arizona to rent an RV and spend the night in Glamis.
Wang had traveled to the area a week earlier to scout the locations. He had driven an ATV before and was familiar with the vehicle, but not the terrain, according to the report.
At the scene, Li said he drove about 10 miles per hour over a berm and up the side of a hill. He said the Cam-Am rental company told him to follow tracks in the sand. He said he had slowed down to get a view of the terrain when the vehicle rolled over and rolled down the hill, according to the report. He told the police that he tried to put Wang in a position to allow him to breathe and took off his helmet.
Officers concluded that the Can-Am was traveling southeast in the middle of the desert at 10 miles per hour and that the slowdown was causing the car to roll.
The report concluded that Wang, who was not wearing a seatbelt, hit the roll cage inside the car, causing a fatal neck injury.
Wang, who went by the name Aaron, had nearly completed his film studies at Chapman when he died. The university therefore granted him his master’s degree in fine arts posthumously.
He had been helping a group of USC students on a student project for an intermediate filmmaking course at USC, according to interviews and a film school certificate seen by The Times. The documents list Li as the producer and another USC graduate student, Ting Su, a passenger in the car, as the director.
USC has previously stated that all student productions at its School of Cinematic Arts require specific approvals for any filming that takes place more than 80 km from campus or involves the use of all-terrain vehicles. The university said it was unaware of any such approvals being sought or provided for the film project.
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