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Boy struck by car as holiday begins in the dunes

January 19, 2002|By LAURA MITCHELL

Staff Writer

A serious accident in which a 12-year-old boy was hit by a vehicle on Highway 78 marked the beginning of the three-day Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend at the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area.

The boy, injured Friday afternoon, was in critical condition and life-flighted to Children's Hospital in San Diego. No further information was available on his condition, U.S. Bureau of Land Management spokesman Stephen Razo said.

The rest of the evening was quiet. Law enforcement officers did not give out any citations and there were only two other minor medical emergencies, Razo said.

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This weekend the BLM is using a smaller incident command team to manage the dunes than the around $500,000 team it used for the four-day New Year's holiday weekend.

That team was formed after the Thanksgiving weekend in the dunes in which one man died from an exchange of gunfire, two people were stabbed, a ranger was run over by an angry driver and other incidents of violence.

The team includes a communications center and California Highway Patrol helicopter.

The BLM expects about 30,000 visitors to the dunes

this weekend, BLM spokesman Robert Bower said.

The team will use about 50 officers from the BLM, the Imperial County Sheriff's Office, the Highway Patrol, state parks, the state Department of Forestry staff and

the U.S. Border Patrol. The BLM's emergency medical staff and the Border Patrol's Search Trauma and Rescue team will handle medical emergencies.

The BLM's operation plan for the weekend shows the majority of law enforcement officers are working at night and their top two priorities are looking for people who are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and possessing drugs or alcohol.

"We project the costs will be close, but a little less than New Year's," said Bruce Shaffer, BLM associate California desert district manager.

The BLM paid $425,000 for the incident team over the New Year's weekend. That costs does not include overtime for sheriff's deputies. The Border Patrol was unable to estimate costs because it patrols the dunes at the border as part of its usual mission.

>>Staff Writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 337-3452.

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