Police ID Driver Sought in North Hills Hit-and-Run That Killed Father, Left 4 Critically Injured

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Investigators on Tuesday identified the driver accused of fleeing the scene of a crash that killed a dad and critically injured four others on Father's Day in North Hills.

Maritza Joana Lara is seen in an undated driver's license photo released June 18, 2019, by the Los Angeles Police Department.

Maritza Joana Lara is seen in an undated driver's license photo released June 18, 2019, by the Los Angeles Police Department.

Maritza Joana Lara, 27, of Van Nuys, was speeding north on Haskell Avenue when she ran a red light at Parthenia Street about 5:35 a.m. The 2016 Lexus IS 250 sedan she was driving slammed into the driver's side of a blue 2005 Nissan Murano SUV that simultaneously entered the intersection heading west, Los Angeles police Detective Lisette Fuentes said.

The SUV's driver, 48-year-old North Hills resident Francisco Hernandez Rivas, died at the scene. He was a father of two teenagers, according to LAPD Capt. Andrew Neiman.

"That's going to be a memory they will never forget every Father's Day," Neiman said.

Fuentes said she believes Rivas was on his way to church when he was killed.

Surveillance video of the crash released by LAPD Tuesday shows sparks fly as the white Lexus sedan plows into the Nissan, pushing it north onto Haskell and causing it to overturn.

The SUV also hit a parked truck before coming to rest on the fence outside a home.

All four passengers in Lara's Lexus were hospitalized. Fuentes said they remained in critical condition Tuesday.

Lara allegedly got out of the sedan and opened a rear passenger door before deciding to flee.

"We're assuming she was trying to get some of the passengers out, but they were so injured they can't get out of the car," Fuentes said.

Ultimately, Lara didn't render aid to anyone, according to the detective. Officials say she was last seen walking away from the crash east on Parthenia Street.

Video from the scene showed multiple empty beers cans inside the car, and Fuentes said there was "obvious evidence there had been some drinking going on in the vehicle."

Officials assess the scene of a deadly crash in North Hills on June 16, 2019. (Credit: KTLA)

Officials assess the scene of a deadly crash in North Hills on June 16, 2019. (Credit: KTLA)

There's a "high possibility" intoxication played a role, but that aspect of the collision is still under investigation, Fuentes said.

The detective added that Lara has a prior DUI conviction from "a few years ago."

The Van Nuys woman was identified as a suspect after investigators were able to speak with passengers from her car, but no one has seen her since the collision, police said.

The suspect resides on the 8000 block of Langdon Avenue, between Roscoe Boulevard and Lanark Street, and is known to frequent the areas of Van Nuys and Panorama City, officials said.

Police are seeking the public's help in finding her, but Fuentes urged Lara to turn herself in.

"We want to hear what you have to say," Fuentes said. "There was someone that was killed that day. You walked away."

The Lexus, which belongs to a relative of Lara's, is in police custody.

As with all hit-and-run investigations in L.A., a reward is tied to information on the case — as much as $1,000 for details leading to an arrest and up to $50,000 if the tip results in a conviction.

Anyone with information can contact detectives Andrew Sinclair or Lisette Fuentes at 818-644-8035, or call 877-527-3247 after normal business hours. Anonymous tips may be submitted via 800-222-8477 or www.lacrimestoppers.org.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the location of the four injured passengers. The post has since been updated. 

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