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Fans pay their respects to Adenhart


Time, it seemed, had stood still on the corner of Orangethorpe Ave. and Lemon St. More than 12 hours after Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart and two friends had been killed in a hit-and-run accident, nothing had changed on the normally quite intersection that divides a strip of mini malls and fast food restaurants.

The silver Mitsubishi Eclipse that Adenhart, 22, sat in the backseat of was still wedged up against a light pole in front of a flower shop. The top of the car was resting up against an adjacent tree after it had been cut open in an attempt to save the lives of those inside. The passenger side of the car looked like a crumpled sheet of tinfoil and the passenger seat had all but moved into the driver's seat.

Facing the front of the Mitsubishi sat the red Toyota minivan, driven by an alleged drunk driver, which had broadsided the Mitsubishi after running a red light. The driver's side door was still wide open after Andrew Thomas Gallo, 22, of San Bernardino, who had a prior DUI conviction and had a suspended driver's license, attempted to flee the scene before he was later caught a mile away.

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As officers walked over the surrounding debris, inspecting the scene and taping off the intersection, fans and residents set up a vigil for Adenhardt and his friends directly across the street from where the two cars sat. The area quickly became filled with an assortment of flowers, balloons, cards, letters and Angels caps, blankets and jerseys. Nicole Power, a 21-year-old student from Fullerton initiated the vigil shortly after the crash. She was a few yards from the accident, heading towards a sports outlet store when she heard the collision. After seeing the motionless bodies of Courtney Stewart, a 20-year-old student from Diamond Bar, who was driving the Mitsubishi, Henry Pearson, 25, who was in the passenger seat and Adenhart, being removed from the car she wrote "God Bless" and "R.I.P." on a large sheet of paper and taped it to the electrical pole across the street. It would soon be filled with signatures and messages to Adenhart.

"I'll never forget the sound, it was like a train crash," said Power, returning to the scene of the accident 12 hours later to tape a few more sheets of paper on the pole for people to sign. "I came back because I just wanted to show my respect. I just knew there were three casualties last night. I didn't know someone famous was involved until this morning."

All four corners of the intersection were soon filled with over 100 on-lookers, many of them Angels fans that left work or school early dressed in their Angels gear to pay their respects to Adenhart and the other victims of the accident.

Mike Valenzuela, a 32-year-old restaurateur from Fullerton, arrived in shortly before the cars were towed away. His Angels hat had black tape wrapped around the bill and he wrote "34" on one side of the Angels halo and "Adenhardt" on the other.

"I got a text this morning from a friend about the accident and I couldn't believe it," said Valenzuela as he wiped tears streaming down from underneath his glasses. "I just saw him pitch six shutout innings a few hours ago and he looked amazing. I kept thinking what could be and now we'll always wonder what could have been."