LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – The families of two 25-year-old men who died in a fiery traffic collision in 2016 were awarded $30 million collectively in their lawsuit against the alleged drunken driver accused of causing the crash and fleeing to Armenia, where he remains a fugitive.
Araik Yegiazaryan and Marten Garibkhanyan both burned to death in the back seat of a car that crashed about 2:30 a.m. on Oct. 15, 2016, at Third Street and Wilton Place in Koreatown.READ MORE: Efforts To Address Homelessness Crisis Along Venice Boardwalk Seeing Results
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Arsen Akopyan were Garibkhangyan’s parents, Edvard Garibkhangyan and Hasmik Harutyunyan, and Yegiazaryan’s mother, Olga Yegiazaryan, each of whom was awarded $10 million by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephanie Bowick.
The judge heard testimony in the non-jury trial Monday before issuing her decision at the end of the day. Akopyan was not present for the trial, did not hire an attorney, and did not summon any witnesses on his behalf. The judge said she was satisfied he was given sufficient notice of the trial.
Akopyan, now 38, has been charged on a warrant with murder, vehicular manslaughter, and hit-and-run driving.
The lawsuit filed in July 2017 alleged that Akopyan was intoxicated at the time of the crash and had a prior history of drinking while driving.
According to witness David Malakian, he and the victims, all Burbank High School graduates, used a ride-hailing service to go to a Koreatown barbecue restaurant the night of Oct. 14, 2016, to celebrate Yegiazaryan’s 25th birthday. They later were put in touch with Akopyan, who was at a nearby karaoke bar, and he invited them to join him, Malakian said.
Malakian testified that he and the others again took a ride-hailing service to get to the karaoke bar and met Akopyan and his friend.READ MORE: Newsom: California Employees, Healthcare Workers Must Show Proof Of COVID-19 Vaccination Or Test Weekly
“They were drunk,” Malakian said.
When the bar closed, Akopyan insisted Malakian and his companions join him at his nearby residence for a nightcap, according to the witness, who testified that he and his friends once again planned to use a ride-hailing service, but that Akopyan insisted on driving.
Malakian said he, Yegiazaryan, Garibkhanyan and a fourth man got into the back seat of a silver Audi and a sixth man sat in the right front passenger seat. He said Akopyan initially proceeded cautiously, but things changed when he reached Third Street and began driving west.
“He got reckless,” Malakian alleged. “He started speeding and running red lights.”
Akopyan allegedly drove close to 100 miles per hour and avoided collisions during the first and second signals, but not when he reached the third, Malakian testified. A car traveling north on Wilton Place collided with the Audi, which spun and crashed into a wall before bursting into flames, he said.
Malakian said he was able to get out of the car and helped remove two other passengers. Bystanders warned Malakian to step away from the car before it blew up, he said.
Akopyan allegedly did nothing to help, telling Malakian, “I need to go, I have a suspended license,” the witness said.MORE NEWS: LAPD Officers Shoot Person In Pico-Union
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