The Shrine in Torrance
Update 8/21/07:  Solved by Val the Nerdy Net Sleuth

Road:                        Corner of El Dorado and Madrid Ave. in Torrance, CA  
Location:                  Torrance, CA

      Nicolas S. (Sherman) Hamner
Date of Accident:   

Date of Death:           5-15-95

Inscription:              “This cross is dedicated in loving memory of Nicolas S. Hamner,  12/3/87 - 5/15/95,

                                            The Quinones-Barnett Families, 5/15/97”

Age:                                 7

Description:            Anyone who wanders down this small residential road in urban Los Angeles is met with an pleasant surprise:  a horrible accident has been memorialized in the form of mini-park.     A large wooden white cross is the centerpiece of this micro-recreation area.  The landscape is decorated with cactus and various plants, and a bench has been provided for the weary visitor.  Toys litter the grounds, and a ceramic squirrel  stands vigil.  A second cross with a paper cowboy hat on it further adds to the atmosphere.  It's fairly common to have a child's white cross decorated with toys and cartoon characters, but this is certainly the most elaborate child's road memorial.  This roadside rest is in remarkable condition considering the accident was almost 8 years ago.  Someone is definitely maintaining it.  Incidentally, urban white crosses such as these are extremely rare.

Analysis:         Thanks to Val, we have the scoop on this tragic accident.      

According to Val:

"I found out the circumstances behind the "Shrine in Torrance", the little boy named Nicolas S. Hamner. I went ahead and started on that one since you had asked readers in the article for any information about the circumstances behind this boy's demise:

First things first...and the reason it took me a while to dig up the info; the accident date is not was actually 5-10-95. Little Nick hung on for 5 days before succumbing. So 5-15-95 is the date of death, 5-10-95 is the date of accident.

So what happened to Little Nick? Well...believe it or not, all the scenarios you had guessed were wrong. :P Nicolas was spending his afternoon on May 10th, 1995 standing near the railroad tracks when a train started to come along at 6:30 pm.  The train moved by very he did what any boy would do to pass the time, he started throwing rocks at it for fun. As he was enjoying himself, a 17 year old male driver recklessly tore through the street and off the road, plowing in to him. The driver then left him at the accident scene, and sped away. 

Nick was sent to the hospital and laid there in extremely poor condition. The teenage driver was eventually caught three days later. The parents of little Nick removed him from his life-support systems and donated his organs on May 15, 1995. He passed away five days after the accident, at 1:10 p.m. at County Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. Cause of death: Severe head injuries from the hit-and-run.  The teen boy pled guilty, but didn't serve any jail time, but was instructed by the judge to give speeches at schools about the "responsibilities of driving" as community service for the incident. Nicolas' mother agreed to this and was quoted in an article as to saying "To put him in jail is not going to do anything."

Side Trivia:

• Nicolas died on his brother Jonathan's ninth birthday.
• Nicolas was a first-grader at Fern Elementary School.
• His social security # was 616-05-6663.
• His father's name is Sherman Hamner, his mother's name is Francis Hamner. They are the ones who maintain the memorial site, though it was funded and placed there by local families of the area.
• His mother's maiden name was Deridder.
His middle name was Sherman, hence the "S."

You want to see the official accident report? Of course you do. :) It can be found here: 

So solved I suppose. Poor kid. He didn't do anything wrong, was just in the wrong place at the wrong time."

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