A well-known Wilson High coach and elementary school teacher in Long Beach was killed Thursday afternoon in a crash after he suffered a medical emergency on the way to a meet, friends and fellow coaches said.
Latham Bell, 53, of Seal Beach, was driving a 2006 Dodge Durango that crashed into a restaurant near Pacific Coast Highway and Cherry Avenue.
Three others, all of them pedestrians dining at a restaurant, were also injured in the collision at 3:37 p.m., but are expected to survive.
The Wilson aquatics community is mourning the sudden and tragic loss of Bell, an assistant swim coach. Bell was on the way to a Wilson swim meet, where the team would a state record 45th consecutive Moore League swim championship, the longest-ever streak in any sport in California. The Bruins pulled off a 30-point turnaround from that earlier meeting to claim the title.
Wilson head coach Eric Berg didn’t find out about Bell’s accident until after the swim meet. Both Wilson alums, Berg and Bell were lifelong friends whose parents attended Wilson together.
“It’s been a wide spectrum of emotion,” said Berg. “He’s one of the most selfless people I’ve ever known. He was always there with a helping hand. He was a father, grandfather, mentor to a lot of kids.”
Bell worked full-time as a teacher at Bixby Elementary School.
Police said Friday that the Durango was traveling west on E. Pacific Coast Highway when Bell experienced a medical emergency and lost control of the vehicle. His car careened into the patio area of Los Potros restaurant in the 1900 block of E. PCH.
“The vehicle drifted to the right, off the roadway, colliding with the raised curb on Pacific Coast Highway, crossed the sidewalk, and collided into the patio area, striking three patrons,” police said in a statement.
A female patron was trapped under the vehicle and was initially aided by community members and subsequently extricated by Long Beach Fire Department personnel, police…