Renowned former ballet dancer, actress and teacher Zina Bethune was hit by two vehicles and killed after getting out of her car in an apparent attempt to help a wounded animal, authorities said Monday.
Bethune, 66, whose married name is Zina Feeley, left her Lincoln Towncar running early Sunday and got out to help what turned out to be a dead opossum, police Sgt. Jeffrey Siggers told the Los Angeles Times.
She was hit by an eastbound vehicle, then thrown into the opposite lane, where she was hit by another vehicle that dragged her body more than 600 feet (180 meters, police said. She had severe head injuries and died at the scene.
Police have not identified the car that was involved in the second collision, Siggers said. The driver may have fled or may have been among the many drivers interviewed by investigators at the scene.
Bethune trained under famed dance instructor George Balanchine and began dancing with the New York City Ballet at age 14 despite suffering from scoliosis and lymphedema.
"I was born to dance, in my heart, but not in my body," she told a Los Angeles Times reporter in 1999.
Starting in 1982, she taught dance to thousands of disabled Southern California children through her nonprofit dance company.
She also sang and danced on Broadway, and appeared in many TV soap operas, including "The Guiding Light" in the 1950s and "Santa Barbara" in the 1980s.
On the big screen she was best known for appearing opposite Harvey Keitel in director Martin Scorsese's 1967 feature debut, "Who's That Knocking At My Door."
Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com