A Stream of Mourners, Friends and Witnesses Visit Crash Site in Studio City

A rabbi of one of the victims came Monday late afternoon to say a prayer.

The wood panel covering the smashed window at the pizzeria has messages written to the three young people who died in the Sunday morning in Studio City. Someone left a Sharpie so that others can add their messages, too. 

Workers headed in and out of  at 11412 Ventura Blvd. to assess the damage. It won’t be open for a while. A TV set on the wall at the far end of the restaurant just simply melted when the car erupted into a fireball. The owners are glad that the crash didn’t happen in the daytime.

at the site throughout the day Sunday and into the evening on Monday. They still wouldn’t talk Monday night, but remain kneeled at the site as people continue to stop, take photos and drop flowers.

“It’s just too hard to talk, not yet, not yet,” said one of the girls. “It’s still too hard.”

Three friends died after they left a party of a friend who was turning 21. Witnesses told police they were driving in a silver BMW at 100 mph down Ventura Boulevard when the car lost control, hit the sidewalk and smashed into two pepper trees, a fire hydrant, a gas line and the pizzeria window.

25, a promising dancer who competed on Dancing With the Stars in 2007 was in the car and perished at the scene, according to the Los Angeles Coroner’s Office. Although authorities haven’t confirmed the other two victims in the accident, friends congregated at the scene said that the others in the car were Schmelnik’s close friend, Pavel Volodkovich, known to friends as “Pasha,” and a visiting friend from New York, Ekaterina Botvinieva Uspshanaya.

On Monday afternoon, Rabbi Sholom Rodal who knows Shmelnik’s family, came by the accident site and recited the 23rd Psalm in Hebrew. The girls joined in reciting the passages.

“People come back to the scene of crash sites like this because we believe that the soul still lingers in the area where it last left the physical body,” said Rabbi Rodal of the Chabad of Mount Olympus.

“There is a very active Armenian Russian Jewish community, and they are very closeknit,” the rabbi said. “This is a time for grief and prayer.”

Patrick Regan was working at the across the street when the accident occurred.

“We could feel the heat of the flames from across the street,” Regan said. “There was nothing anyone could do.” 

The car driven by Pasha was traveling eastbound from Romanov’s and the trio was headed to an after-party, friends said. The three had been drinking that night, the friends added.

Violeta Vlasova told KTLA that some people were concerned about the driver’s level of intoxication, and that someone tried to take his keys, but it they weren’t able to get them.

Another friend, Alexander Polansky, told KTLA that he felt a lot of guilt because “I saw 
that he was too drunk to drive.''

Police are awaiting toxicology reports that could take weeks.

About 80 people gathered at the scene the night after the accident, prompting police to come to keep the crowd out of the streets.

Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey said the first report of the crash came at about 3:35 a.m. and it took 52 firefighters 23 minutes to put out the resulting pizzeria blaze. The three victims were pronounced dead at the scene.

Tributes to Pasha and Jason, as well as Jason’s appearances on TV flooded YouTube and are available above.

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Richard Niederberg September 11, 2012 at 01:36 PM
We may never know why an intoxicated person would drive down Ventura Blvd at 100 miles per hour, but one thing is clear: the passengers could have found a less risky way to get home. Not just for their own sake, but because the driver would be less distracted with conversation while participating in an inherantly unsafe activity. Allegedly, the passengers were also under the influence; it is too late now. RIP to all.
Toluca Lake Observer September 11, 2012 at 04:48 PM
A lot of questions about the culpability of the Romanov restaurant. Last call should be about 1:45 am. The tragedy took place about 3:30 am. Why did the restaurant continue serving those described by friends as being drunk. And what took place between 2 am and 3 :30 am? LAPD and ABC will dig thoroughly--as they must--since the actual cause appears to be the Romanov restaurant. Authorities will find the answers.
Toluca Lake Observer September 11, 2012 at 06:56 PM
I am aware of the gutless California dram shop law, but if the restaurant is found to have contributed to the tragedy, there are many other criminal charges which can be brought. Also, "public nuisance" issues could be brought into the investigation.
Francesca. September 11, 2012 at 07:58 PM
Drinking and texting while driving kills...stop this insanity NOW...the truth is most people don't want changes!!
george September 11, 2012 at 08:53 PM
TLO -I strongly disagree that any venue is responsible for intelligent human beings drinking excessively and driving at 100 mph. They made a conscious decision to drink, didn't have a back up plan, and paid the price. You would also have to blame every place that sells alcoholic drinks for deadly accidents and overdoses. We are responsible for our own behavior and actions. Bars do need to cut off patrons who are drunk, but they are not ultimately responsible for reckless behavior leading to loss of life.
Julie September 11, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Romanov is a Russian restaurant. Russian restaurants usually allow their patrons to bring their own buzz, and the food (and drinks) are served family-style. You can't expect a restaurant to know how much everybody at the table is drinking and when he had the last drink. It's ultimately the responsibility of the person who drinks and then decides to drive, not the restaurant. My heart goes out to the families of three young and talented kids whose life was cut so short because of one wrong desicion. RIP
Alla Z. September 12, 2012 at 01:52 AM
You are making two very strong accusations against Romanovs, without any proof what so ever.1- "why did the restaurant continue serving..". If you have never been at a Russian restaurant for a party/banquet, you may not know that when someone hosts a banquet, it is "prix fixe"..INCLUDED in the price of the banquet is the alcohol..(ex. for every_people, 1 bottle).The host of the party may also choose to purchase additional bottles. There's no A LA CARTE! You don't order drinks when you are at a banquet! The tables are already set, with food and alcohol,shortly before your arrival. If you were to go to any American restaurant where a party of 50 has 10 bottles of wine on the table, do you think you would EVER see a waitress come up to a guest, and tell him/her "you've had enough", and take away a glass of wine that was already paid for? NEVER! Why are you holding Romanov's to a different standard? I know FOR A FACT that at Romanov's, the wait staff takes ALL ALCOHOL OFF THE TABLES, starting at 1:30am. By that time coffee/tea/dessert has already been served. So people can very well be at the restaurant well into the morning, drinking coffee/tea. 2-"the cause appears..." In the aftermath of such a tragedy, it's only natural to want to find a guilty party. However, without proof of negligence, you cannot accuse anyone. Your comments can have a negative effect on Romanov's reputation, causing the business financial hardship.That's why there are laws against libel and slander!
Yami September 12, 2012 at 02:42 AM
....Alla, his comment did have some merit, as I have personally witnessed at Latino bars & night clubs, hard liquor being served, without any concern whether they were drunk or not. Some patrons would be stumbling or not be walking too good. Police would pose undercover and witness this and then close the place down, and/or revoke the license. It does work, cause I seen countless latino bars shut-down forever, because of the REPEATED infractions. Now, something in ROMANOVS' case, needs to be done, like educating the staff, and having them pass that information onto the families of the banquet parties
HONEST ME September 12, 2012 at 02:44 AM
Yami September 12, 2012 at 02:46 AM
....in the future, ROMANOVS' can be educating the staff, and having them pass that information onto the families of the banquet parties. These 3rd world nationalities, like the Latino bars too, need to heed to the American rules, to protect the safety of the public
Alla September 12, 2012 at 03:34 AM
Thank you, Julie! My sentiments, exactly..."educating staff, passing info to families.." REALLY? Yami, you think there is ONE adult who is unaware of the dangers of drinking and driving? People make their own decisions, and unfortunately, the more intoxicated a person is, the more impaired the judgement is. And what's to stop someone from leaving the restaurant, where no employee was negligent in any way, get in a car, and have 10 shots before driving away? Who are you going to hold responsible then? The owners of the parking lot?
Alla September 12, 2012 at 03:47 AM
Oh, WOW! Your ignorance is blinding...Please, as a public service, since you insist on subjecting us to reading your opinions, finish 6th grade.
jimmy September 14, 2012 at 12:39 AM
I'm glad the drunk driver involved is dead. He will never put other innocent people at risk again. The streets are a little safer now. The two passengers were probably too drunk to realize they shouldn't have got in his car. They are all guilty, clearly all raised by bad parents, also probably a bunch of drunks. Stop the tributes to the driver. He was a menace to innocent people in society.
elina September 14, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Jimmy you are a a**hole. Yes drunk driving is wrong but do not say its bad parenting. Lots if young people with good parents make bad decisions because they think they are untouchable. In psychology its called the personal fable. I know one of the kids and his parents and they are good and loving people who are in a great deal of pain. Hopefully this will make young people think twice before drinking and driving but to say they are bad parents is sooo wrong. Have you never done anything your parents taught you not to do????no one is glorifying these kids.just expressing theor sadness over this preventable tragedy. you are heartless. RIP and may the poor parents find enough strength to move on after this tragedy.
chart September 14, 2012 at 08:37 PM
I actually know one of the victims parents, and he came from an amazing,genuine family, who have even helped ME when i needed it. Very sad someone would assume such things on such a tragedy.
John September 18, 2012 at 01:30 AM
Welcome to Studio City. Feel free to get drunk, and speed through my neighborhood. Assholes.
Marina November 15, 2012 at 04:45 PM
Reed Moran December 04, 2012 at 01:08 AM
No one to blame but the driver.... If my 20-something daughters ever got into a situation like that -- well, they wouldn't. Can't blame the parents after your kids turn 18 or 21.. and we all know from personal experience is that one's 20s are when you are free... to make your own mistakes. Sad beyond description. Smart choices, people... if you survive your 20s, wisdom seems to creep in-- but hold your breath as parents during that dangerous decade.


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