A Woodland Hills mom was enjoying a girls' night out with friends over the weekend when police say she was fatally struck by a driver who fled the scene, and her loved ones on Tuesday issued a public plea for information in the case.
Yana Lavrenteva and her group had just finished dinner at a restaurant in Encino on Saturday when they decided to walk across the street for coffee at about 11:50 p.m., said Yaroslava Markova, one of the women with her that night.
According to Los Angeles police, she was within a marked crosswalk on Ventura Boulevard, just east of Louise Ave, when she was hit by an SUV that was heading east on Ventura Boulevard.
"It happened so fast, and we couldn't even help it," Markova told KTLA. "We couldn't react. We couldn't do anything."
Markova said the crosswalk signal showed they still had 18 seconds left to cross when the vehicle rammed into her friend.
Olga Viter, who was also there, said whoever was behind the wheel was speeding. "It was no brakes before or after," she said.
Witnesses describe the SUV as a light-colored Toyota 4Runner from the late 90s or early 2000s, police said.
According to Markova, Lavrenteva was the only one hit because she had stopped to take off her shoes, which had been hurting her feet.
The 30-year-old mother of two was rushed to the hospital in critical condition, officials said.
Her family said doctors declared her brain dead, and though she showed some signs of improvement on Monday, she eventually succumbed to her injuries.
Along with her children, Lavrenteva is survived by her husband, Evgeny Lavrentev.
"She was a great mother; she was the best mother," he said.
Evgeny said his late wife had lived in the area of 20 years and was working as a speech therapist, helping children with autism. She graduated from CSU Northridge, and at the time of her death was working on obtaining her master's degree.
"She was so young, motivated," Markova said. "She wanted to live this life. She had a lot of goals to achieve. This is heartbreaking."
Detectives have few leads in the case but are working to obtain surveillance footage from businesses in the area. A grainy still from one camera appears to show an SUV matching the police description of the vehicle.
Yana's loved ones were asking anyone who may have witnessed or have information on the incident to come forward.
"I don't even want to see the person who did it but for my kids, for my family, for all of my friends, I would like police, government to find this person," Evgeny said.
Anyone with information about the collision can contact Detective Lisset Fuentes at 818-644-8021 or Detective Dan Menesez at 818-644-8028. After-hours calls can be directed to 877-527-3247. Anonymous tips may be submitted via Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477 or www.LACrimeStoppers.org.