Monday, July 30, 2007

COLLISION COURSE: THE DELUCCA ACCIDENT




COLLISION COURSE: THE DELUCCA ACCIDENT – INTERSECTION OF SWANTON ROAD AND STATE HIGHWAY 1 (THE COAST ROAD).


AUGUST 1, 2007, IS THE 60TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE TRAGIC DELUCCA ACCIDENT WHICH OCCURRED JUST NORTH OF DAVENPORT. THE PHOTO ABOVE HAS NEVER BEEN PUBLISHED BEFORE. IT WAS SENT TO ME BY JIM SILVA, A RELATIVE AND CLOSE FRIEND OF THE DELUCCAS. IT SHOWS THE DELUCCA FAMILY STANDING IN FRONT OF THEIR RECENTLY PURCHASED AUTOMOBILE, A BLACK 1941 BUICK. THIS PHOTO PROBABLY WAS TAKEN A FEW DAYS, PERHAPS EVEN A FEW HOURS, BEFORE THE ACCIDENT. FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: AMERIGO DELUCCA, WIFE MATILDA (BROVIA) DELUCCA, DAUGHTER MARIE, SON ANTHONY AND DAUGHTER DOLORES. THE LITTLE GIRL STANDING IN FRONT OF AMERIGO IS DAUGHTER MADONNA (DONNA) DELUCCA. MR. AND MRS. MANUAL QUANDROS WHO ALSO WERE PASSENGERS IN THE VEHICLE AT THE TIME OF THE ACCIDENT; DO NOT APPEAR IN THIS PHOTOGRAPH. (Individuals whose names appear in bold type were killed at the time of the accident, or died shortly thereafter.)
THE TOP PHOTO IS OF A 1941 BUICK SIMILAR TO THE ONE DRIVEN BY AMERIGO DELUCCA THAT ILL-FATED EVENING. THE BOTTOM PHOTO IS THE ACTUAL VEHICLE AFTER THE VIOLENT COLLISION.
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During the course of my thirty year police career, I learned that many tragic events would not have occurred at all, if it wasn’t for the happening of certain other events just preceding the tragedy. The DeLucca Accident is a case in point.


Event#1: THE DELUCCA’S DECIDE TO TAKE NEIGHBORS TO SAN GREGORIO

The DeLucca’s ill-fated journey “su per la costa” probably started in Santa Cruz, during the late Friday afternoon hours of August 1, 1947. The DeLucca’s reportedly were taking their neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Manual Quandros to San Gregorio, a small agricultural hamlet located several miles north of Davenport and the Swanton Road – Highway 1 intersection. Counting the Quandros, there were eight passengers in the car, a Black, 1941 Buick, recently purchased by the DeLuccas. Normally, the vehicle was designed to carry up to six passengers.

Event# 2. THE DELUCCA’S DECIDE TO STOP AT BELTRAMI’S; DELAYING THEIR JOURNEY BY SEVERAL MINUTES

Norma (Dinelli) Wilson, then 7 years-old, recalls seeing the DeLucca’s at Beltrami's, a small bar and gasoline station located on the Coast Road, mid-way between Santa Cruz and Davenport. The Dinelli family used to live in the house next door to Beltrami’s. Norma remembers the shiny black car and she remembers talking with the DeLucca children seated inside. She also remembers them waving good-by to her as the DeLucca’s left Beltrami’s and continued their journey north toward Davenport.

Norma doesn’t remember how long the stop was, however, one can assume it was several minutes.

Event# 3: THE DELUCCA’S DECIDE TO MAKE A SECOND STOP AT NEW TOWN; FURTHER DELAYING THEIR JOURNEY.

Patty Morelli, age 6 at the time, remembers the DeLucca’s stopping in New Town, just north of Davenport and just south of the Swanton Road – Highway 1 intersection. Patty lived in New Town with her family. Patty recalls that the DeLucca’s stopped to see Julia Stefani, Matilda DeLucca’s sister. According to Patty, all the neighbors came out to see the beautiful new car. Again, one can assume that this stop was of several minutes in duration.

Event# 4. REPORT OF BRUSH FIRE AT CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY (CDF) BIG CREEK STATION OFF OF SWANTON ROAD.

About the time that the Delucca’s were visiting in New Town, the California Department of Forestry (CDF) received a report of a brush fire at a location south of the Swanton Road-Coast Road intersection. They dispatched a CDF fire truck with a crew of six men. Truck and crew proceeded in a south-westerly direction on Swanton Road towards the Coast Road. Reportedly, the truck’s Red Light and Siren were activated.

Event#5: THE DELUCCA’S DECIDED TO CONTINUE ON THEIR JOURNEY TO SAN GREGORIO SHORTLY BEFORE 6:30 PM.

Having finished their visit in New Town, the Delucca’s decide to continue their journey north on Highway 1. This is about the same time that, the CDF truck traveling on Swanton Road is nearing the Highway 1 intersection.


THE COLLISION

The Santa Cruz Sentinel (Aug 2, 1947) reported that the tragic accident occurred at approximately 6:30 PM. For the accident to have occurred as it did, the two vehicles had to arrive at the intersection at approximately the same time. If either vehicle had arrived at the intersection a minute or two before or a minute or two after, the collision would never have happened.

As reported in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, the accident probably occurred in the following manner: The DeLucca car, traveling north on the Coast Road, broadsided the CDF truck as it entered the intersection. Apparently the driver of the car, Amerigo DeLucca, did not see the fire truck soon enough to avoid the collision.

The Sentinel identified the dead victims as Amerigo DeLucca (driver), age thirty-six, Donna DeLucca, age four, Anthony DeLucca, age nine, Mr.Manual Quandros, age sixty, and Mrs. Manual Quandros, age fifty-five. Members of the DeLucca family, seriously injured were identified as Matilda Delucca, age thirty. Marie Delucca, age 12, and Dolores Delucca, age 10. None of the CDF crew was killed.

The August 3, 1947, edition of the Santa Cruz Sentinel gives some evidence on just how violent the collision was. It describes the front end of the DeLucca car being, “smashed back into the front seat, completely demolishing the sedan; the fire truck was a total wreck, with its strong, reinforced steel frame bent and the cab knocked right off the frame, smashing wheels and axle.” The year-end edition off the Sentinel, dated 10/31/47, re-published a picture of the accident, and stated that it “was probably the worst traffic accident in the history of Santa Cruz County.” So badly damaged was the DeLucca automobile that the only identifying item clearly distinguishable was the California licenses plate, number 35 H 170.

La Nostra Costa, mourned the dead, especially the children, for years to come. The accident has never been quite forgotten in the memories of those who heard the sirens and the ambulances streaming up an down the Coast Road, transporting the dead and injured that frightful evening.

With hindsight, it is easy to speculate if this accident would have happened if one or two of the events cited above had not occurred. If the DeLuccas had decided not to take the Quandros to San Gregorio, would they have continued north of Davenport that evening? There would have been no reason to do so. If they had decided to go north,even without the Quandros, would a less crowded vehicle have allowed for less distractions for the driver. Theoretically, this could have given Amerigo DeLucca, more time to take evasive action.

If the DeLuccas had not made their stop at Beltrami’s and/or in New Town, the chances would have been greatly increased that their vehicle would have passed through the intersection of Swanton and Coast Road, before the arrival of the CDF truck. On the other hand, if they would have stayed longer at either one of these locations the CDF truck probably would have passed through the intersection prior to the Delucca’s vehicle arrival.

Of course, something that was beyond the control of everyone involved was the timing of the brush fire. No brush fire reported; no dispatching of the CDF crew. No dispatching of the CDF crew; no accident. As I have experienced in my police career, a seemingly routine happening, sets in motion a series of events that can have dire and even tragic consequences. Unfortunately this was so true for the DeLucca and Quandros families.

We must also address the issue of driver(s) error. The Santa Cruz Sentinel reported that the DeLucca vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed. The force of the collision tends to verify this. It is quite possible, even probable, that the accident could have been avoided, if the vehicle was going at a much slower speed. On the other hand, if the CDF truck hadn’t pulled out into the intersection, when it did this accident would not have happen. Red lights and siren were activated, but red lights and siren do not relieve one from exercising due caution when driving on a public highway.

It was my experience that during a “Code 3 run” (red lights and siren activated), entering an intersection was probably the most dangerous part of the "run". Traveling at a fast or a slow rate of speed, drivers of vehicles having the right of way on through roadways do not normally expect to see an emergency vehicle pulling into an intersection. Many drivers have their windows up and do not hear the siren or if they do hear it, they are momentarily confused as to which direction it is coming from. Believe it or not some drivers have trouble seeing the red lights and/or, for a moment, can not comprehend what they signify or what is happening.

Even with my red lights and siren activated, it was my practice to make a full stop at an intersection; I made sure that vehicles on the opposite corner(s) were at a full stop before I proceeded through. This is called “due caution” and it comes with proper training and experience. My philosophy was that it wasn’t going to do anybody any good to save a few seconds on the “run” if an accident on the way prevented me from arriving at my destination.


Finally, as I have stated in “La Nostra Costa” (Page 357), these are, “Just the thoughts of an “old cop” here. I don’t think it matters much any more. People died here so long ago and nothing can ever change that.” All that is left now is our memories of those who died that terrible evening on August 1, 1947.*

*Other portions of this article were also taken from the book “La Nostra Costa” (Our Coast) by Ivano Franco Comelli and published by Authorhouse, (2006),
http://www.authorhouse.com/ .


For more information on "La Nostra Costa", please visit the new La Nostra Costa Website:



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SADLY, JIM SILVA HAS JUST INFORMED ME OF THE PASSING OF HIS MOTHER; DIVA (ROCCHI) SILVA. HER DEATH OCCURRED ON AUGUST 1, 2007, THE 60th ANNIVERSARY OF HER BROTHER AMERIGO'S DEATH IN THE TERRIBLE ACCIDENT DESCRIBED ABOVE. BELOW IS HER REMEMBRANCE AS IT APPEARED IN THE CONTRA COSTA TIMES:


Diva Gloria Silva
Diva Gloria Silva Aug. 23, 1917 - Aug. 1, 2007 Resident of Rodeo Diva was born to Italian immigrant parents Pietro and Maria Rocchi in Bonny Doon, California and was a 66-year resident of Rodeo. Diva retired from Brookside Hospital, San Pablo, California and enjoyed many years of retirement. During her retirement she traveled extensively to many countries in Europe, and also visited Australia and New Zealand. She enjoyed trips to Reno and her weekly bingo games with her many friends. She was preceded in death by her husband, Frank Silva; and daughter, Diane Bessolo. Diva is survived by sons, Jimmie J. Silva, Rodeo, Frank Silva and daughter-in-law Sheri, Hercules. She also leaves grandchildren, Rick and Paul Silva, Martinez, Matthew and Lesley Silva, Hercules, John, Darrin and Jimmy Bessolo, Rodeo; eleven great-grandchildren and son-in-law, John Bessolo, of Rodeo. Diva will be remembered for her kindness, love of family, friends, giving nature and zest for life. She touched many during her long life and will be fondly remembered and greatly missed by all who knew her. Private graveside services will be held in Santa Cruz, California. Donations may be made to the American Cancer Society.




9 comments:

jim silva said...

GB: The e-mail below was sent to me several months ago by Jim Silva.
It seems appropriate to re-publish it her for this article.

Dear Ivano,

I received a copy of an e mail from Barbara Louv that you had sent her. In it you filled her in about the 1947 tragedies that the Rocchi family endured. My Mother was a Rocchi. She is now 89 years old and in good health, the last living. Her name is Diva Silva and Amerigo DeLucca was her brother. He and is two children (Anthony-10 & Madonna-4), as you know were killed in an auto accident in August of 1947 on Coast Highway.

Earlier in that year her Sister Norma Raffin was killed in Santa Cruz.

Amerigo's wife Matilda who just recently died was from an early Davenport area family named Brovia. Her obituary can be found in the archives of the Santa Cruz Sentinel under Matilda Dornbergh. In it it tells of the 1947 accident.

Thank you for time, I will be looking forward to reading your book as soon as I get through my Bonny Doon book.

Respectfully,
Jim Silva
Rodeo, Ca.

marvin del chiaro said...

Like you, Ivano, I keep living that accident over and over again in my mind,just like it happened yesterday, and I wonder WHY too! Why? Just a minute one way or the other, and no one would have ever remembered that day or that
fire call, or any of the rest. Instead, it's burned permanently in our minds, and we won't get over it until the day we finally die too.

Your friend, Marv

doriano degano said...

...... your comments regarding emergency vehicles entering intersections is absolutely right on. I feel comfortable especially after speaking with you that you were and are a Numero Uno polizioto... a Number One Police Officer !!! Doriano

GB: Thanks Doriano. I am quite proud of my record on the roadways.
Oh, yes....I had my share of fender-benders when I was patrolling, however, I never had an accident on a 'Code 3 Run'. ivn0

Norma Dinelli Wilson said...

........the memorial and photo of the DeLuca family was very touching.
So appropriate that we remember this sad event of 60 years ago today. It affected so many of us. The one good thing for me and probably for you is that we met Mathilda’s Daughter at the Red Cross booksigning. She is so sweet and looks so much like her
Mom. I really appreciated meeting her. Would love to talk to her again someday.

Anyway today we share in remembering the sad event. The photo was so special. I remember them like it was yesterday. It took me a long time to have any closure to

That night. For many years I trembled when I saw an ambulance or heard a siren. The

Coast Rd. didn’t have too many sirens or emergency vehicles in those days – an occasional
CDF truck and that was not too often. It was the old road and I guess people could not really speed until you got on a real straight part like at Swanton going to Waddel, etc. Also the

Cement trucks (if you were behind one) kept you going slow and you didn’t dare pass because it was virtually impossible. Hope you can figure it out somewhat on the map I made of the new and

Old highway – but I know as all of us do – you close your eyes and can “travel” it again. As Hank
Bradley said “it seems like we spent a lifetime on the schoolbus” – and them more than the rest of us as they had to still go to Waddel and beyond! On old Bus#2 and Mr. Bruce. We do have some sad memories as we do today and we dwell on the good memories as there were many of those!!

Thanks again for writing your book and getting all this nostalgia going again and so many people

Reconnecting. We all owe you many thanks and appreciation!!!!!!

Ciao for now – Norma Dinelli Wilson

jim silva said...

Ivano,

I read your article and thought it was well done and did justice to a family that left this world far to soon. It was somewhat sad to read about such a tragic event and to think that I had cousins and an Uncle that I never had the chance to know. I was only three when it happened but had always heard about it over the years.

Nice work on a fine tribute to the DeLucca family. Much thanks and appreciation.

Sincerely,
Jim

hank bradley said...

Hi Ivano-

I remember the incident very well. I didn't see the wreckage, but the marks on the pavement were pointed out for months afterward, and we all drew a breath of anxiety just thinking of the disaster. I personally did not know any of the firefighters or the folks in the DeLucca car, but my family and all of our neighbors did. Your account and photos on the Blagga brought it back in far clearer detail than I ever knew before.

Then, the very next year brought the forest fire that involved all the folks up and down the coast. That fire, and the DeLucca wreck, were a sobering introduction to the real world for this kid.

Hank

Ivano Franco Comelli said...

Jim Silva sent the e-mail below announcing the death of his mother, Diva(Rocchi)Silva. Craig is Craig Kille who manages the Bonny Doon Community Website:
www.bonny-doon.info .

Ivano & Craig, As you both know my Mom was born in Bonny Doon and lived there until the Rocchi family moved into Santa Cruz when she was about seventeen.
She was the last member of her family but sadly she passed away last Wednesday August 1, 2007 which ironically was 60 years to the day of her brother Amerigo DeLucca's death on the Coast highway of which Ivano recently wrote about in his blogg. With both of you so connected to the coast road and Bonny Doon I wanted to inform you both of her passing.

Thank You,
Jim Silva

Anonymous said...

Would it be possible to get in touch with Jim Silva? I am researching the Silva line of our family (related to Jim) and am also related to Mrs. Quadros (Constancia Conde Vasconcellos).

Bill
want2beunique at yahoo dot com

Ivano Franco Comelli said...

Thanks Bill for your interest in the above article. I will see if I still have Jim's e-mail and will forward to you. ivno 7/16/2012