San Diego

Escondido Teens Identified as Victims in Deadly Highway Overpass Fall

Two people killed in a fall after a crash along a San Diego area highway overpass were identified Thursday as Escondido teenagers.

Ruben Ortiz, Jr., 18, died on Tuesday of multiple blunt force injuries, according to the San Diego County Medical Examiner. 

Ortiz was involved in a collision involving a Nissan Altima on State Route 56 near Carmel Valley Road and was witnessed to have jumped off the bridge.

A family member told NBC 7 Thursday the second person killed in the overpass fall was Jesse Garcia, 17. California Highway Patrol officials confirmed Thursday that the 17-year-old had been the person driving the car.

Garcia's brother, Richard Romero, told NBC 7 Garcia had been driving his mother's car at the time of the crash. The teen had been out with friends, celebrating his birthday, Romero said.

Romero said his family is devastated by Garcia's death.

The Nissan Altima was heading eastbound on SR-56 when, for unknown reasons, the vehicle spun out an crashed into a bridge's railing at about 11 p.m., the CHP said.

There were six young people inside the car.

Witnesses told investigators all six people got out of the car following the crash. The Nissan was stalled in traffic lanes, and the occupants got out to possibly to avoid getting hit by an oncoming vehicle, CHP Sgt. Brent Lowry said. 

Four of the occupants, all teenagers, ran across the freeway and jumped over the bridge's edge, dropping about 80 feet to the ground below.

The fall killed Ortiz and Garcia. The two other teens who jumped, two females, suffered critical injuries in the overpass fall. They have not yet been identified.

CHP said the car's two other occupants may have run away from the scene. Officers began conducting searches for the pair immediately following the crash.

The CHP said Thursday afternoon that those two outstanding passengers had been located; they are both juvenile males, ages 14 and 15.

After speaking with witnesses and the two teenagers who ran away from the scene, CHP officials determined the person driving the car was Garcia. The teenage driver was also from Escondido, CHP officials said.

At the crash site Tuesday, the Nissan was stalled in the number one lane of eastbound SR-56 over Gonzalez Creek. It had a crushed rear bumper but witnesses told police it was the only car involved in the crash. CHP suspects it was damaged during the spin out when the car crashed into the guardrail. 

It was unclear what caused the vehicle to lose control in the first place. 

A GoFundMe page was created to help Garcia’s family cover the costs of a memorial service. Within the first two hours of the campaign, more than $200 was raised.

The page called the crash a “terrible tragedy.”

An Escondido Police Department Lieutenant confirmed that the Nissan involved in the crash was also involved in two high-speed pursuits earlier in the week.

The first was just before 11 p.m. Monday when police responded to reports of a collision on Broadway. Officers arrived and saw multiple people involved in the crash jump into the back of the black Altima before it drove away. Officers gave chase but quickly stopped the pursuit because the Altima was driving at dangerously high speeds.

The second incident occurred on Tuesday at around 12:35 p.m. when officers spotted the same Altima on El Norte Parkway and Washington Avenue. The Altima, with multiple passengers inside, sped away from police and the chase was called off after about a minute.

CHP Officer Jake Sanchez said Thursday that the investigation is ongoing. The CHP does not anticipate any charges stemming from the crash or deadly fall.

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