A 13-year-old boy riding his bike down a steep hill flew 10 feet onto trolley tracks and suffered a fatal head injury, the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) said.
The victim, identified by friends and the San Diego County Medical Examiner (ME) as Jose Hernandez, and his 14-year-old friend were on their bikes without helmets, heading down a hill on northbound 61st Street at 2:34 p.m. Monday. As they neared Imperial Avenue, Hernandez lost control of his bike and couldn't make a turn onto Imperial, police said.
He rode across the road, hitting the north curb and the guardrail by the MTS trolley tracks.
Police said Hernandez flew another 10 feet, and his head hit the trolley rails. He died at the scene from massive head trauma, according to the SDPD. Investigators are looking into the possibility that his bike did not have brakes on it.
Hernandez's 14-year-old friend told police they were running away from someone trying to steal their bikes at gunpoint. Police confirmed the robbery reports, but they said there is no solid connection at this time between the reported robbery and Hernandez's death.
Witnesses said the victim was escaping armed robbers, which is why he was going too fast down the hill.
"It was pure fear, and they were going down that hill, and you know, out of control, in fight or flight survival mode, right? And the kid hit the guardrail and flipped up over it and boom! He laid there and when they got there to save him, it was too late," a witness said.
On Tuesday, investigators said Hernandez and his friend had been robbed before the bike accident, in the 6400 block of Skyline. Police said seven men had stolen money from the teens. No weapons were seen in the robbery.
Still, police do not believe the robbery and Hernandez's accident are related. Police said it does not appear Hernandez was being chased at the time of the crash.
On Monday night, just hours after the deadly accident, Hernandez's friends began to gather at Imperial Avenue and 61st Street to place candles near where he died. They said their friend attended Horace Mann Middle School.
"I didn't believe it. I don't believe it. I got a message on Facebook saying he passed, and I didn't believe it," said friend Julio Sanchez, who told NBC 7 Hernandez was like a brother to him.
The group said Hernandez loved his bicycle and loved to customize it.
"It's hard. He used to be a funny boy, lots of jokes," said friend Esmerelda Martinez. "He made people laugh."
No train was involved in the incident in any way, the SDPD said. Westbound Imperial Avenue was closed as officials investigated, and MTS trolley service was suspended for a couple of hours..
Police are still investigating whether the suspects who robbed the teens are affiliated with a street gang.