UPDATE: 3 Die in Fiery Car Accident on Ventura Boulevard

The victims were celebrating a friend's 21st birthday.

A BMW travelling at a high rate of speed down Ventura Boulevard in Studio City early Sunday morning smashed into a pizzeria and was engulfed in flames, killing the car's three occupants, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Police and fire officials believe the driver may have been drunk after celebrating a friend's 21st birthday party at nearby , which is west of the crash site and also on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City. The victims were two men and a woman, all in their 20s.

"My understanding was that the driver was impaired, I don't know that for sure," Battalion Chief Daniel McCarty of the LAFD told Patch. "Witnesses in another car described the vehicle as travelling at a high rate of speed."

A friend of the crash victims, Alexander Polansky, told KTLA he felt "a lot of guilt because I ... because I saw that he was too drunk to drive. Something inside of me said... he's an adult, he'll get there, but the result is very unfortunate that he didn't."

The BMW was travelling east down Ventura Boulevard when the crash occurred about 3:35 a.m., according to the LAFD. The car hit a tree and sheared a natural gas line before smashing into at 11412 Ventura Blvd. The car was quickly engulfed in flames, according McCarty, who added the three victims likely survived the crash but perished in the fire.

"Right as it hit the restaurant, it also sheared off the gas main that feeds this building," said McCarty. "A fire ensued, and that fire was rapidly fed by the gas line. The three people in the vehicle perished in the fire. They obviously suffered injuries from the accident, but I believe it may have been a survivable accident if it hadn't been for the fire."

The Los Angeles Coroner's office identified one of the victims as Jason Shmelnik of Los Angeles, and media outlets and people who visited the site said that the others were Pavel Volodkovich (known as Pasha), also of Los Angeles, and Ekaterina Botvinieva, who was visiting from New York. Volodkovich was identified as the driver.

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Rebecca Whitnall (Editor) September 10, 2012 at 07:41 AM
Hey Chris, I don't know how specific the DJ you heard was, but I thought I'd share that often police departments will distribute press releases with general information about where DUI checkpoints are. The idea is folks might think twice if they know the police have a concentrated presence. Of course, this only works if specific locations aren't given...
Stephanie September 10, 2012 at 08:04 AM
There are plenty of media outlets that broadcast the locations and times of DUI checkpoints throughout Los Angeles. It's no secret.
Jolie September 10, 2012 at 08:16 AM
I work down the street from this location, I'm the one that this "driver" could have killed. A friend of mine was across the street at the 7-11. He could have been killed. I don't think anyone is saying they are "happy" this driver died. They are saying they are relieved that when he chose to get behind the wheel of a very powerful automobile that the life he took was his own and not my life or the life of someone I love. As for the angry "relative" that is trying to censor everyone's comments. This is not Russia. This is America. People have the freedom to speak their mind and be respected for their opinion. If you prefer an environment of censored comments, perhaps America isn't the place for you. I seriously doubt the parents of the two young people this driver "murdered" aren't expressing their "condolences" or "sympathy" to the driver's family right now. I've lived in this area for 15 yrs and avoid Ventura Blvd after dark whenever possible. If it's not a drunk driver hurling toward you it's a valet w/no DL who has no clue how to drive a car and could care less about any one else on the road. I do hope this hideous "restaurant" is shut down. It will at least even the score when the poor little pizza place has to close because the family sues them over the gas line. Their anger will have to be directed somewhere. Trust me ... their attorneys are already all over it. I don't know how, but I do hope something positive will erupt from this mountain of senseless loss.
Jolie September 10, 2012 at 08:34 AM
Even in high school at the age of 16 we were responsible enough to chose a designated driver. We were wild, crazy, fearless and did stupid things but never put anyone's life at risk, especially our own! But gone are the days of accountability ...
V September 10, 2012 at 09:05 AM
Jolie, you should see a psychiatrist. If you are avoiding Ventura Blvd because you are afraid of getting hit by a drunk driver or valet with no driver license its called paranoia. And just because you cannot afford to eat at Romanov, you don’t have to call it “hideous”. And please don’t tell the mourning family – this is America – they know. You should learn a little bit about human decency. When people pass away, it’ not nice to talk bad about them.
Steve September 10, 2012 at 10:32 AM
Jack - Yes. But to simply say they "died" makes it sound so benign. They played a game of Russian roulette which easily could have killed innocent people. T.J. - No, I have never driven drunk and yes, I know someone who has and I was appalled to hear of it. No TJ, I'm not insensitive or mean but yes, I do get angry when reading some of these comments. You probably were angry when you read mine. I just spent my Sunday volunteering for a worthy cause and so actually, I'm going to sleep great! No scary issues either thank goodness! I'm at peace. Ahhmmmm.
Steve September 10, 2012 at 12:22 PM
Oh Charlene, Charlene, Charlene. Yes I am "judgin". Who am I to criticize? I am a law abiding citizen residing just blocks from the accident site who doesn't want a loved one being needlessly struck down by a drunk driver. Yes, we've all made mistakes, but most people's mistakes aren't serious crimes, nor do they put people's lives at stake. What evidence is there of their greatness? What amazing accomplishments should we be made aware of? Would you still say "everyone messes up once in a while" if we were talking about a rapist, or a murderer?
Peter September 10, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Amen, Jolie. For now, many will be too inconsolable to be reached. But, it may be a day, a month, a year, many years... but ONE day, if they're blessed by God enough to live that long (as we all hope to be), they will wake up, and like a flash of lightning, think - "WTF?!? Why the hell did these kids do so such a stupid thing?!?" And from then on, they will be DAMN SURE to be climbing over tables to be grabbing the keys of any drunk who tries to get into any car within range.
Malamadre September 10, 2012 at 04:39 PM
Very well said, Jolie, and so true. Unfortunately, when people are blinded by grief, they can't see things objectively. Accepting reality for what it is - in this case, three senseless deaths caused by a drunk driver who was allowed to get wasted at a restaurant where neither management nor staff give a shit - may not be possible for some of the victims' family members and/or friends, at least for now. I believe that the victims' friends, who knew that the driver was too drunk to get behind the wheel of a car and did NOTHING to stop him, are just as responsible for this tragedy. As for trying to censor what other people are saying - that's ignorant and irrelevant.
Alex Daniels September 10, 2012 at 08:21 PM
Hey V, what does affording to eat somewhere have anything to do with any thing? (as you drive your salvage title MBZ back to your North Hollywood apartment) Worry about paying your Romanov credit card bills rather attacking someone speaking their honest respectful opinion..I for one thank God this reckless drunk "child" didnt kill anyone else...If not this accident, such stupid reckless behavior would eventually cause him to have met a similar demise somewhere else...Respect? Until someone EARNS respect by not putting those around you in mortal danger, there is no respect.
kat September 10, 2012 at 10:15 PM
For Dani and other friends and relatives of the deceased: (1) I'm sorry for your loss. I have no doubt that they were fine people who made a bad decision; (2) People who don't know them but are angrily commenting about the idiocy of driving drunk are not ignorant or insensitive-- they likely have been or know someone who has been the victim of a drunk driver, someone who's life has been forever altered because of someone else's bad choice. Although it is terrible that these three died, it would, indeed, be more tragic if they'd killed some other innocent sole, as many drunk drivers have; (3) SOme people view this as a learning opportunity for others and want to point that out -- not only is this not an ignorant thing to do, but it is something you and their other friends may want to keep in mind as you are grieving your lost friends and relatives-- isn't it better to find some way to use this tragic loss to ensure that someone else doesn't experience this loss? I think so, and I think it's a possible path to healing for those left behind; (4) Don't read this stuff anymore -- it will make you angry at the whole world. There are some mean comments here and plenty by people who are transferring their understandable anger at drunk drivers generally to your unfortunate relatives. You need to process the facts as you process the loss, and hopefully you'll find some meaning in the end and not a generalized anger at everyone else.
Jeff Green September 11, 2012 at 04:34 AM
See this story posted on Patch.com and other news outlets from May 10 of this year. Sound Familiar??? Fiery Crash Closes Ventura Blvd. Near Universal - A female driver is arrested on suspicion of DUI. By City News Service May 10, 2012 Ventura Boulevard was closed to traffic near Universal City today after a pickup truck driven by a suspected intoxicated driver crashed into a utility pole and knocked down high voltage power lines. The crash happened at 10602 W. Ventura Boulevard near Lankershim Boulevard at 11:41 p.m. Wednesday, said Matt Spence of the Los Angeles Fire Department.
Linda September 11, 2012 at 04:53 AM
Well said Kat.
jess September 11, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Ok if the restaurant closed at 2am, and it was approx 10 blocks away from the accident, the 911call on or about 3:35 am, question is were they being served alcohol after 3am which then the restaurant prob kicked them out bec it was late, did they not notice their patrons were too drunk? I am not sure but someone should check the way the law is written bec the restaurant could be a responsible party. Also not to sound too morbid, the ambulance charged the 2 women who got electracuted when helping an accident victim and they charged the next of kin. It would be messed up if they charges the families for the service they provided
Iron Lady September 11, 2012 at 07:24 PM
This is a very sad & tragic moment for the families & friends of all the victims. What was a supposed to be a celebration of life ended in demise. My sincere condolences. Whether we like it or not, this incident serves as a lesson learned.
Greta Vivante September 12, 2012 at 01:43 AM
Bad experience is better than death.
Greta Vivante September 12, 2012 at 02:03 AM
Do you have children? Would you repeat your words, if your child died in this car? Oh, how easy it is to judge when the matter concerns somebody, someone else..!
Arnold September 12, 2012 at 04:58 AM
I felt sorry to this kid such a young life to lost and the family condolence. The bar should be responsible to watch there patrons they just try to make money but not care about what you are going to do after drink specialty for the young.
Laura Coker September 12, 2012 at 06:23 PM
First, my condolences to the family and friends of these three young people. Maybe their tragedy can be a wake up call to other young people. Rather than casting blame, we should all just look at ourselves, think about what we do. Be good to each other.
Skraeling September 12, 2012 at 07:24 PM
reap what you sew...drunk drivers, speeding...3 fewer drunks to worry about..
Robert Lawson September 13, 2012 at 06:55 PM
If you're going to be a jerk, Jack, at least try not to look dumb doing it. It's "sow". I hate drunk driving with a fiery passion (especially as someone who rides a bicycle at night) but these people are dead. I'd think you could lay off of them. Hopefully people learn to take a cab or bus (or crash on a couch for their night) instead of driving and putting others and themselves at risk.
Charlene A September 14, 2012 at 09:00 AM
Very well said V! Who the hell said this is Russia? As if American's havent drove drunk before? What does Russia have to do with it? I cant believe how insensitive people can be when 3 people have just passed away? Atleast have the decency to keep it to yourself, have some respect... Ya, this is America but it doesnt give you the right to talk bad about people you didnt know and JUDGE them off of this. They were amazing people!
Charlene A September 14, 2012 at 09:02 AM
Well said Laura!
Alex Gubin September 15, 2012 at 06:26 AM
Saying "they deserved it" when 3 people burned to death, only one of them even driving, is the lowest of lows! Clearly, the driver made a very bad decision, not even so much being drunk, but going 100 mph WHILE being drunk - still, I feel very bad for him, for his passengers, and for their families and loved ones, my heart goes out to all of them. On another page related to this story, some wise guy said that because these kids drove drunk, they were obviously raised by bad parents. You know what I think? If you don't have the common sense and decency to shut your mouth and not spew more negativity on top of what has already happened, especially a tragedy of this magnitude, then it is you who has not been taught right from wrong properly! Everyone makes mistakes when they are drunk, yet you jerks are sitting there sober - what's your excuse?!
Krystel Dean September 15, 2012 at 06:47 AM
There is an article in the LA Times and the Daily News stating that one of the guys friends knew that he was REALLY Drunk and thought that he was Adult enough to drive and make it home. Now this poor guy will have this haunt him for the rest of his life. And I Agree with you Alex on what you have commented
tom masto September 17, 2012 at 08:38 AM
have the toxicology reports been released? we don't know for sure if he was drunk, the crash happened at 3:35 am its the law to stop serving alcohol at 2 am actually 1:45 am. so his friend told him he was too drunk to drive, its possible he waited to sober up before he got behind the wheel. myself i don't drink and drive, but i bought a mbz and i like to see what it can do occasionally. maybe we should crack down on the automakers, or wait, how about speed bumps every 1000 feet throughout California. Perhaps testosterone got the best of him. One thing is for sure though, people perished, victims families have had their hearts torn out of them, their heads are still spinning, and i think its only appropriate to at least wait till that stops, before leaving negative comments
Skraeling September 17, 2012 at 09:52 PM
They brought it upon themselves and did not care one whit if they endangered others...just 3 fewer idiots on the roads...This isn't Moscow...
John September 18, 2012 at 01:32 AM
Welcome to Studio City. Feel free to get drunk, and speed through my neighborhood. Assholes.
Alex Gubin September 18, 2012 at 03:31 AM
This isn't Moscow?! What, Americans never drive drunk? And the passengers, did they bring it upon themselves too? I wish I could smack you right across your ignorant mouth!
Cerjio Almaraz September 26, 2012 at 07:40 PM
Dani, I am sorry for the lost of your family member and the 2 other friends. Its something we have to live with, and learn from. I would like to see if I can help these families to start their recovery from this horrible accident. Please feel free to contact me at cerjioalmaraz@yahoo.com. Help me help those during this time.


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