One of two teenagers who died after plunging from a Carmel Valley freeway bridge following a solo-car crash this week was the driver — a 17-year-old Escondido boy, authorities said Thursday. The car, a 2012 Nissan Altima, had been the target of Escondido police chases twice in the days and hours before the Tuesday night crash.
On Thursday, the California Highway Patrol provided new details and said officers had tracked down two teen passengers who ran off after the collision.
Six people were in the Altima just after 11 p.m. Tuesday, July 9, CHP Officer Jake Sanchez said, when the sedan spun out on a state Route 56 bridge and slammed into a rail.
Everyone got out of the car, which was still in a traffic lane. Two people ran off. Four stepped over the concrete bridge railing, possibly to get out of the way of traffic, and dropped 80 feet.
The teen driver, whose name was not released, and an 18-year-old passenger identified by the Medical Examiner’s Office as Escondido resident Ruben Ortiz, Jr. were found dead below the bridge, which runs over Gonzalez Creek. Two teen girls, ages 14 and 15, survived the fall from the bridge but were severely injured.
On Thursday, July 11, Sanchez said investigators tracked down the two teen boys, ages 14 and 15, who ran off. He said the CHP is continuing to investigate the deaths, but do not anticipate criminal charges stemming from the crash or fall.
Escondido police say officers had chased the Altima twice in the 24 hours leading up to the bridge incident. Each time, the Altima and its occupants got away.
The first pursuit happened about 10:50 p.m. Monday, July 8, when police responded to a collision near North Avenue and Broadway. Officers saw the Altima picking up several people believed to be involved in that collision, Escondido police Lt. Scott Walters said. They gave chase, but dangerous moves by the Altima driver led them to call it off.
The following day, about 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 9, an officer spotted and tried to stop the Altima. That chase, too, ended quickly when police called it off.
-- Teri Figueroa and Alex Riggins are reporters for The San Diego Union-Tribune