An emergency medical technician, responding to an accident on a rain-soaked State Route 163, was setting out flares when he was hit and killed by a car Thursday.
Esteban Bahena had been an EMT with San Diego Medical Services (SDMS) for two years. According to a friend, the 24-year old's last Facebook post eight hours before he died was "Just transported a patient coming off a jet plane. Love my job."
On Thursday morning, around 7 a.m., Bahena and his partner stopped to help a stranded driver on northbound SR-163 just south of Robinson Avenue.
While they were there, an accident happened in the same stretch of highway when a pickup truck and a Toyota Scion collided.
Bahena crossed the freeway to set up flares to alert oncoming drivers about that accident when he was hit by a Chrysler Sebring, according to investigators.
"I'm sure Esteban was as careful and cautious as anybody, and it was just a matter of circumstances this morning," said Michael Simonsen, a spokesperson for SDMS.
Bahena's partner started CPR and after a nearby fire crew stopped to help, they loaded Bahena up and took him to the hospital in his own ambulance.
California Highway Patrol officers believe a fifth car may have been involved because the Sebring has rear end damage with blue paint left on the bumper. Officers say a blue car may have struck the Sebring but fled the scene.
Bahena was transported to a Mercy Hospital. He was pronounced dead at 8:32 a.m. according to San Diego Fire and Rescue -- the first EMT or paramedic to die in the line of duty in the company's 13-year history as the city's paramedic provider.
“Our paramedics and EMTs serve the San Diego community every day, and Esteban was one of our very well-liked and exemplary employees,” San Diego Medical Services (SDMS) CEO Philip Forgione said in a news release. “All our personnel are stunned and devastated by this incident, and our deepest thoughts and prayers go out to the Bahena family.”
The driver of the Sebring was also transported to UCSD Hospital in serious condition.
Bahena lived with one of his two sisters. A friend said Bahena's mother died two years ago today. His father lives in Mexico.
His employer said Bahena was a well-liked team player.
"You know, he loved his job," said Simonsen. " And as an EMT and you're between calls and you roll up on a traffic accident, that's in your nature. That's what you do. "
The death has dealt an emotional blow to a group of public service men and women who deal with tragedy as part of their jobs. ""We deal with death every single day. But when it's one of your own, it's that much harder," said Simonsen.
SDMS is the largest ambulance provider in the county with more than 500 employees and 80 ambulances. Bahena had been an SDMS employee since August 2008.