Bay Area News Roundup
A roundup of Bay Area stories making news today.
Vallejo's Wonder Girl
Vallejo has found a superhero to save their city today in the form of "Wonder Girl," a 10-year-old girl battling cancer.
Monika Romo is visiting schools and other institutions throughout the morning as part of a special day organized by her family, Supporting Our Cancer Kids, a Solano County support organization for children with cancer, and the community group Vallejo Together.
Maria Guevara, an organizer with Vallejo Together, said Monika -- known today as Wonder Girl -- wrote an essay last month about how to save Vallejo from "evil villains."
Today she is sharing her ideas on how to protect the city and how she has transformed into a superhero throughout her battle with cancer.
She started the morning at Pennycook Elementary School and then headed to Vallejo High School. She will visit Vallejo City Hall and the California Maritime Academy before returning to Pennycook Elementary for a noontime event with Hogan Middle School students.
Guevara said today is about including all generations of Vallejo in the discussion of strengthening their community.
At her various stops in the city today, attendees are asked to wear superhero costumes and T-shirts, organizers said.
The special events for Monika come after last month's "Batkid" phenomenon, in which thousands of people came out in San Francisco in support of 5-year-old Miles Scott, a leukemia survivor who was dressed up as the caped crusader and fought costumed villains in events set up by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
NTSB safety recommendations
The National Transportation Safety Board today issued "urgent" safety recommendations to protect rail workers in the wake of the on-the-job deaths of two BART track workers in Contra Costa County two months ago.
The recommendations arose from the NTSB's ongoing investigation into the deaths of 58-year-old Hayward man Christopher Sheppard and 66-year-old Laurence Daniels of Fair Oaks, who were struck and killed by a BART train on Oct. 19 while inspecting a dip in the tracks between the Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill BART stations.
At the time of their deaths, BART was using a controversial safety procedure known as "simple approval," in which track employees were responsible for their own safety and required workers to clear the track in 15 seconds if a train approached. BART has since eliminated the practice.
Following that revelation, the NTSB is urging "redundant" safety measures for rail workers, such as implementing a safety monitoring system known as positive train control, secondary warning devices or the use of a shunt that workers attach to rails to send a stop signal to approaching trains, according to a statement from the safety board.
The NTSB today also urged Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff to require transit agencies to review safety procedures and eliminate practices that rely solely on the track worker to protect themselves from an oncoming train.
"Having redundant protection measures in place for track workers is not only a best practice but common sense," NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman said. "A positive safety culture is not a solo act -- everyone needs to look out for each other."
The letter to Rogoff also cites other track worker deaths investigated by the NTSB in recent years, including fatal incidents in the Washington, D.C., New York and Boston areas.
The investigation into the deaths of Daniels and Sheppard is ongoing and the NTSB has not yet determined the accident's probable cause.
Dead Guerneville woman ID'd
The Sonoma County coroner's office has identified the woman who was found dead in her small trailer in Guerneville on Sunday as 70-year-old Ranae Lyla Bunch.
County sheriff's deputies and Russian River Fire Protection District paramedics arrived at the trailer on Drake Road around 5:10 a.m. last Friday after someone who was having trouble breathing called 911, sheriff's Lt. Steve Brown said.
Deputies knocked on the door, checked the outside of the trailer and broke a window, Brown said. They noticed a television was on and there was a phone on the bed, he said.
The deputies again tried to make verbal contact but received no reply and were unable to see anyone inside when they looked through a window, Brown said.
The deputies believed no one was inside and they left a note advising the occupant to contact them about the damage from the broken window, Brown said. The deputies then left the scene.
Steve Baxman, operations officer for the Russian River Fire Protection District, said the paramedics couldn't find the trailer until sheriff's deputies found the address of the 911 caller by checking trailers' license plates in the area and matching it to the name of the caller.
The caller said she lives in space No. 1, Baxman said.
Baxman said he leaned into the broken window and didn't see anyone on the bed despite moving the covers around. Baxman said a light and the television were on in the bedroom.
"If I see a body, I break down the door. If not, I don't have the right to do that," Baxman said.
"It's sad. We did the best we could do under the circumstances," he said.
Bunch's daughter Serena Bunch, 53, said she was trying to contact her mother over the weekend. She said her mother suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and uses oxygen to breathe.
Bunch said she went to the trailer around 1 p.m. Sunday and found her mother "collapsed into a small ball on the floor beside the bed."
The television and light in the trailer were on, and her mother's oxygen machine was still running, she said. Bunch's daughter-in-law, who went to the trailer with her, called 911, Bunch said.
"I don't know why they didn't see her. She was right there," Serena said. "The broken window was two feet from her."
Deputies on Sunday afternoon went back to the trailer, where Serena and several neighbors were upset that the deputies left a note on the broken window but did not go inside to check on the occupant, Brown said.
"She called for help," Serena Bunch said. "They should have broken the door down. They could easily have popped the lock. It's not a solid front door. Someone calls for help and you look in and leave."
Bunch said the trailer is 18 feet long.
She said her mother was in ill health most of her life.
"She was disabled and lived on a small fixed income. She was a cantankerous woman, but she was passionate about animals. She once raised dogs and did dog grooming in Southern California," she said.
Serena said she is studying administration of justice at Santa Rosa Junior College, and works as a "handy gal" doing fix-it projects. "I learned that 'exigent circumstances' gives police a right to break in," she said.
Brown said the coroner's office is investigating the death and an internal investigation will address whether proper policy and procedures were followed in the initial call.
Man killed on I-280 ID'd
A man who was killed in a crash on northbound Interstate Highway 280 in Daly City on Wednesday has been identified by the San Mateo County coroner's office as 33-year-old Gilbert Vallejo.
Vallejo, a Daly City resident, was killed after a Toyota Corolla apparently struck the center divider of the highway near Westlake Avenue at about 4:45 p.m., according to the California Highway Patrol.
Vallejo was found on the ground outside of the car and was pronounced dead at the scene. Two other people suffered minor injuries in the crash, CHP officials said.
Sacred Heart toy drive
An annual holiday toy drive by Sacred Heart Community Service in San Jose has a record number of kids set to receive gifts but is about 7,000 toys and books shy of its goal, a charity spokesman said today.
Sacred Heart has scheduled parents of some 6,000 needy children to pick up three toys and a book per child on Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Monday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., the nonprofit's director of development Jay Pecot said.
"We have never helped this many kids before," Pecot said. "We've had a real challenge here."
Pecot said Sacred Heart's gift giveaway is "part of our responsibility in a community where income disparity is so great. We need to have everyone work together."
But the charity, located at 1381 S. First St. in San Jose, still needs the thousands more toys and books to maintain its stated promise of three toys and a book for each child, Pecot said.
"At this point in time, we are short," Pecot said.
Giving out books is meant "to encourage literacy in the family," he said.
On Friday, parents who have signed up in advance for the toy distribution program will arrive at Sacred Heart's Toy Room to shop for age-appropriate toys and books for kids up to age 18, charity officials said.
The non-denominational organization, which serves mainly the working poor of San Jose, is expecting around 3,000 parents on Friday and another 3,000 Monday to claim gifts, charity officials said.
The parents then take the items home to "play Santa" and surprise their children with presents for Christmas next Wednesday, Pecot said.
Among the most sought-after presents are action figures and Lego building sets, as well as bicycles, for which parents entered into a drawing for the 500 bikes available at Sacred Heart, Pecot said.
Volunteers will also be there to shop at Target with gift cards if certain categories of gifts parents seek are not there, or for teenaged children who can be difficult to shop for, according to Pecot.
San Jose City Councilman Sam Liccardo will be one of the volunteers helping to give out the gifts to parents beginning at 8 a.m. Friday, according to Sacred Heart.
Sacred Heart's volunteers are accepting donations of toys and financial aid from the public today until 5 p.m., from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and for more limited hours on Saturday, according to the charity.
Donors may also contribute funds online at www.sacredheart.org/holidays and can drop off toys, books and other gifts at the charity's drive-thru donation station at 1381 S. First St.
Home invasion robbery shooting
Multiple people were injured during a shooting at a home invasion robbery near Vacaville in Solano County on Wednesday evening, according to deputies.
Just after 6 p.m. on Wednesday deputies received a 911 call from a resident on Poplar Road in an unincorporated area near Vacaville reporting that four men had forced their way into the home and that someone had been shot, deputies said.
Deputies and Vacaville police established a perimeter and made contact with the residents inside the home.
One man suffering from multiple gunshot wounds was transported to a local hospital and was reportedly in stable condition, according to deputies.
The suspects beat up two other people inside the home, possibly with a firearm, deputies said.
They were treated at the scene for their injuries, deputies said.
An extensive search of the area was conducted, but no suspects were found, deputies said.
According to sheriff's deputies, five people were at the home when four men forced their way inside the residence through the front door.
The suspects tied up all five victims and demanded that the victims hand over valuables.
Deputies said that after shooting one victim and beating up two other victims in an attempt to get property, the suspects stole items from the house and fled the scene.
After the suspects fled from the home, one of the victims got free and called 911.
The suspects were described as two white men and two black men, all standing about 6 feet tall, wearing black ski masks and black gloves. Each man was reportedly armed with a handgun, according to sheriff's deputies.
The suspect vehicle was described as a late 1990s or early 2000s silver Toyota Camry, deputies said.
Anyone with information regarding this crime is asked to call the Solano County Sheriff's Office at (707) 421-7090.
An elderly woman was seriously injured in a purse snatching in San Francisco's Western Addition neighborhood early Wednesday morning, police said today.
The robbery and attack was reported at about 5:30 a.m. near McAllister and Webster streets.
The 71-year-old woman was approached by a male suspect who tried to steal her purse. After a struggle, the suspect punched the woman, causing brain bleeding, a contusion and lacerations to her face, police said.
She was taken to San Francisco General Hospital to be treated for the injuries, which are considered life-threatening, according to police.
The suspect fled with the purse and had not been found as of this morning, police said.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Police Department's anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or to send a tip by text message to TIP411 with "SFPD" in the message.
Timeshare sales scam
The Napa County District Attorney's Office is warning residents about a timeshare sales scam that cost a Yountville couple $5,000.
The couple received an unsolicited phone call in July asking if they wanted to sell their timeshare in the Marina El Cid Spa and Beach Resort in Riviera Mayo, Mexico, said Rich Garcia, a consumer fraud investigator with the district attorney's office.
The couple was not selling the timeshare they had purchased, but agreed to when the caller offered to buy it for $52,900, Garcia said.
The couple said they researched the company, Diamond Resorts Marketing Services, on the Internet and believed it was legitimate, Garcia said. The caller said the company was based in Alexandria, Va.
Another company, Diamond Resorts International of Las Vegas, legitimately sells timeshares, Garcia said.
All of Diamond Resorts Marketing Services' communications with the couple were by fax, email or phone, and contracts were sent and phone calls were made through the process, according to Garcia.
The caller told the couple that Mexican law requires the sellers to pay federal taxes and escrow fees and the couple then wired the $5,000 in two separate transfers in August, Garcia said.
The scam company sent several emails explaining why the $52,900 had not been sent, and the couple realized they had been duped, Garcia said.
Garcia said the scam by Diamond Resorts Marketing Services is the only one he knows about in Napa County, but said other people around the country have been bilked.
Consumers should be cautious if they are required to pay upfront fees for real estate services and should thoroughly vet the company in question, Garcia said.
School bus crash
A school bus with eight children on board was involved in a crash with two other cars in Livermore this morning, a California Highway Patrol officer said.
The crash was reported shortly before 7:55 a.m. near Murrieta and Stanley boulevards.
At least one person suffered minor injuries in the crash, CHP Officer Ron Simmons said. He did not know if the injury was to someone on the bus or in one of the other cars.
CHP officers remained at the scene this morning, Simmons said. The highway patrol investigates all collisions in the state involving school buses.
Replica pistol citations
Four boys were cited in Hercules earlier this week after they were spotted with what turned out to be a replica pistol, police said today.
Around 4:20 p.m. Tuesday, a citizen called police to report that four boys on Willow Avenue near The Grove Christian Church were passing around what appeared to be a pistol and pointing it at nearby cars, according to police.
Police said officers quickly found the boys on Willow Avenue and attempted to speak with them, prompting three of the juveniles to run away into the nearby Foxboro Downs neighborhood.
While an officer detained the boy who didn't flee, another officer located two of the other boys nearby. The fourth boy was later located at his home in Rodeo.
One of the boys led the officers to where the firearm was thrown.
Officers discovered that the weapon was a Crosman Airsoft pistol, a replica of a Beretta with its orange tip removed, police said.
The brown gun is a similar model to what was used during Operation Desert Storm, according to Hercules police Sgt. Ruben Rodriguez.
"It looked very real," Rodriguez said.
The four boys, 12 and 13-year-old Hercules and Rodeo residents, were cited and released to their parents.
The case is being forwarded to the Contra Costa County Probation Department, Rodriguez said.
The boys' arrests come less than two months after 13-year-old Andy Lopez was shot and killed by Sonoma County sheriff's Deputy Erick Gelhaus in Santa Rosa while carrying a replica firearm.
The case has drawn national attention as well as numerous protests and rallies calling for murder charges against Gelhaus and restrictions on toy guns.
Rough wind advisory
The U.S. Coast Guard is advising boaters on the San Francisco Bay to be prepared for rough winds and high seas today.
Northerly wind gusts as high as 63 mph are expected, potentially creating dangerous sea conditions, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
Lt. Cmdr. Shawn Lansing said mariners should avoid taking to the water if stormy conditions occur.
Boat owners and operators are also urged to check that their vessels are properly moored or anchored, as strong winds can cause boats to break free if not properly secured.
Tonight will be clear and chilly across most of the Bay Area, and cold in the inland valleys. Low temperatures will be mainly in the mid to upper 30s, but the inland valleys will have lows at or below freezing. Tomorrow will be sunny and mild inland and near the bay, with highs in the low 60s--cooler at the coast, where highs will be in the mid 50s.
Redwood City 59
San Francisco 58
San Jose 58
Santa Rosa 62
Lows: Upper 30s to Around 40
Tomorrow: Sunny & Cool
Highs: Mid 50s
Tonight: Clear & Chilly
Lows: Mid to Upper 30s
Tomorrow: Sunny & Mild
Highs: Around 60
East Bay Valleys
Tonight: Clear & Cold
Lows: Low 30s
Tomorrow: Sunny & Mild
Highs: Low 60s
North Bay Valleys
Tonight: Clear & Cold
Lows: Upper 20s to Around 30
Tomorrow: Sunny & Mild
Highs: Low 60s
Tonight: Clear & Chilly
Lows: Upper 30s
Tomorrow: Chilly AM/Sunny Afternoon
Highs: Upper 50s to Around 60
Tonight: Clear & Cold
Lows: Low to Mid 30s
Tomorrow: Sunny & Cool
Highs: Upper 50s
Mostly Sunny & Mild
Highs: 60 Coast to 64 Inland
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- roundup: Toy drive in need; Timeshare sales scam
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