Father Dies from Pechanga Truck-Accident Burns

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By: WILLIAM FINN BENNETT
The Californian/North County Times
1/31/05

The driver of a truck that burst into flames after hitting another vehicle in a parking lot Sunday died later at the hospital, officers reported Monday.

Douglas Aaron Bellamy, 32, of Temecula, died at 8:20 p.m. Sunday at Arrowhead Regional Burn Center in Colton, according to San Bernardino County coroner's officials. His 4-year-old son, Destin Bellamy, was pronounced dead at the scene of the fiery crash, officers said. The 8-year-old daughter of Bellamy's girlfriend was able to escape from the truck and survived.

CHP officials said the accident happened at 1:12 a.m. Sunday when Bellamy was driving his [2002] Ford F-350 truck through a casino parking garage. While traveling slowly, he hit a parked van. His truck burst into flames a couple of minutes later, said CHP Officer Ron Thatcher.

The children were sitting in the back seat, and the boy was strapped into a child seat, said Thatcher, adding that the girl escaped through a back window. The accident and the fire are under investigation, Thatcher said.

Officers reported Sunday that Bellamy, who was hospitalized, was arrested o­n suspicion of drunken driving in connection with the crash. However, family members disputed Monday that he was arrested.Officers said Monday afternoon that they had requested that CHP officers in San Bernardino County make the arrest; however, they said they could not definitively state that Bellamy was arrested before he died.

Bellamy's girlfriend, Amy Simpson, also disputed officers' suspicions that he was drunk. Simpson, 28, said she had been with him the entire day before the early morning crash and that at no point had he consumed alcohol.

She said that Bellamy, a construction worker, doted o­n his son "He was probably o­ne of the best fathers you could ever have met," she said.

According to Simpson, she, Bellamy, her daughter Victoria, and Destin had gone to the casino late Saturday night to have dinner and ice cream. When they were ready to leave, Bellamy left with the two children to get the truck and was supposed to pick her up at the front entrance, she said.

Fifteen or 20 minutes went by and she tried to reach him by cell phone, but couldn't. Then she got a call from Pechanga security officers and ran outside.

Simpson said she was not allowed to go near the truck, but that her daughter later described the ordeal ---- how she had watched helplessly as Destin suffocated and Bellamy burned o­n the ground by the truck.

According to Simpson, when the fire started and smoke began filling the car, Victoria told Destin, "We got to get out of here." But the boy was scared and said he wanted to wait for his dad, she said. Victoria told her mom she then tried to undo Destin's seat belt but couldn't, Simpson said.

The girl slipped out of the sliding window at the back of the truck, and when she got out of the vehicle, he said, "Torry, I can't breathe, I can't breathe,'" Simpson said. "She screamed, 'Somebody help my little brother.'" She added that she and her daughter saw a trauma counselor Monday morning. "It's really hard for her, because she saw it all," Simpson said of her daughter.

Witnesses reported that they heard the crash and went to the truck. They saw the car catching fire and filling up with smoke, Thatcher said Monday. They banged o­n the door and windows and yelled at Bellamy to get out, but he was unresponsive, Thatcher added.

At some point, the door opened and Bellamy fell to the ground, Thatcher said, adding that witnesses used fire extinguishers to fight back the flames and dragged Bellamy away from the vehicle.

He said the Temecula CHP officer who responded to the accident later requested that San Bernardino CHP officials go to the Arrowhead Regional Medical Center to take blood samples from Bellamy and arrest him forvehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence. Thatcher stressed, however, that it has yet to be proven that Bellamy was under the influence of drugs or alcohol or responsible for the accident.

A team of special investigators should be joining the case today to try to determine what caused the car to catch o­n fire after such a minor impact.

Investigative officers hope to obtain copies of the casino's video surveillance tapes, as part of their reconstruction of how Bellamy spent the 24-hour period leading up to the accident, Thatcher said.

Bellamy's uncle, Escondido resident Rick Bellamy, 48, said that his nephew had "a really kind heart," and that he adored his son. "His little boy was the world to him ---- he would have burned himself up to get that kid out of the car," Rick said.