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Lawndale driver, 74, in triple-fatal crash shouldn`t have been behind wheel …

A Lawndale man who drove the wrong way on a Hollywood street and caused a crash that killed a mother and her two young children was driving on an expired and suspended license, records show.

Solomon Mathenge, 74, who remained in critical condition Friday, should not have been driving on Wednesday when he swerved into oncoming lanes and caused the crash.

Mathenge had let his license expire, and later had his right to drive suspended because of unpaid tickets, state Department of Motor Vehicles records show.

Mathenge slammed into a minivan driven by Saida Juana Mendez-Bernardino, 27, of Los Angeles, her 4-year-old daughter, Stephanie Cruz, and 6-year-old daughter, Hilda Cruz, police said.

Mendez-Bernardino was driving her daughters to school.

DMV records showed Mathenge’s driver’s license expired on his 72nd birthday, July 17, 2010.

Three months later, DMV officials suspended Mathenge’s driving privileges after he failed to appear in court to deal with two tickets — one for driving at a speed unsafe for prevailing conditions on March 30, 2010, and another for talking on his cellphone without a hands-free device on May 30, 2010.

Los Angeles police said Mathenge was driving his 2004 Infiniti north in the southbound lanes of Highland Avenue at 7:20 a.m. when he struck the left side Mendez-Bernardino’s 2002 Dodge Caravan. The mother was making a left turn onto Willoughby Avenue.

Hilda died at the crash site.

Her mother and Saida died at a local hospital.

Detectives do not believe alcohol or drugs played a role in the crash, police said.

Records show Mathenge previously was convicted of driving too slowly on June 12, 2010, and failing to appear in court.


larry.altman@dailybreeze.com

Follow Larry Altman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/larryaltman

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