United States

Father of 3 Dies Helping Stalled Driver on Father's Day

A man struck from behind was pronounced dead on the way to the hospital, a CHP officer said.

The loved ones of a man who was killed while he helped push a stalled vehicle out of the lanes of State Route 78 were still in disbelief the night after the tragic crash.

A stalled Jeep Cherokee was in the lanes just after 11 p.m. on Father's Day. The California Highway Patrol said Octavio Escatel pulled over to help the driver push the SUV to safety.

As they pushed, a Toyota Rav 4 driven by a teen suspected to be under the influence struck them, CHP Officer Ernest Martin said.

The collision occurred where SR-78 ends at Broadway, east of Interstate 15. Investigators say the Toyota Rav 4 was traveling approximately 65 mph before the collision.

The SUV driver suffered head trauma and was rushed to a nearby hospital.

Octavio was pronounced dead on the way to the hospital -- a tragic ending to what had been a terrific Father's day for the father of three. It began early with a celebration of Mexico's upset over Germany in the World Cup, followed by a celebration of Octavio.

His family said he was on his way home from the San Diego County Fair with his girlfriend, Blanca, when he stopped to help the driver in distress who happened to be a friend from Escondido High School.

"I just collapsed with Blanca. Both of us collapsed," Octavio's brother Gustavo said. "Why did this happen to my brother when he only was trying to help someone move out of the way? Why did this happen to my brother?"

Octavio's brother said he moved to the U.S. 20 years ago from Mexico where their parents still live. He and Blanca were planning on getting married soon.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for Octavio's family. On the fundraising page, a brother wrote that Escatal was a father who leaves behind three children ages 16, 12 and 9.

The CHP said the 17-year-old driver of the Rav 4 fled the scene on foot and was taken into custody at the nearby Rally's restaurant. The Escondido teenager was determined to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, according to the CHP. 

Officers said they also found drugs, drug paraphernalia and a loaded handgun in the Rav 4. 

The lanes were closed for four hours while CHP officials conducted an investigation.

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