San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office at the County Operations Center.
San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office at the County Operations Center. Photo by Ken Stone

Authorities Thursday publicly identified an 18-year-old man killed when he and three young companions jumped off an eight-story-tall freeway bridge in Carmel Valley after being involved in a solo car crash on the towering span.

Ruben Ortiz Jr. of Escondido and a 17-year-old boy whose name has not yet been released died late Tuesday night in the roughly 80-foot fall from the elevated of stretch of state Route 56 over Gonzales Creek, according to the county Medical Examiner’s Office and California Highway Patrol.

Two girls, ages 14 and 15, survived the plunge with severe injuries, CHP public-affairs Officer Jake Sanchez said.

The four were among a half-dozen teenagers in an eastbound 2012 Nissan Altima that spun out of control and crashed into a metal guardrail just west of Carmel Valley Road about 11 p.m., Sanchez said.

After the sedan came to rest blocking a lane on the structure, all of the occupants got out and began running toward the right-hand shoulder of the freeway.

Ortiz and three of the others then leaped over a concrete wall on the south side of the freeway for unknown reasons – possibly not realizing they were on a bridge – while the other two stayed on the roadway and continued fleeing on foot, Sanchez said.

Ortiz and the boy who jumped — also an Escondido resident — were pronounced dead at the scene. Medics took the girls to Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla for treatment of major injuries.

CHP investigators eventually located the other two youths, boys ages 14 and 15, Sanchez said. After interviewing them and other witnesses to the crash, officers determined that the boy who died along with Ortiz had been driving the car at the time of the crash, the spokesman said.

“At this time, investigators will continue with the death investigation but do not anticipate any charges stemming from the (case),” Sanchez said Thursday afternoon.

Earlier this week, patrol officers in Escondido were involved in two brief pursuits with the same sedan, said Scott Walters, a police lieutenant for the department.

The first chase took place about 11 p.m. Monday, when someone driving the Altima fled following a hit-and-run crash at Broadway and North Avenue in Escondido, Walters said.

The second occurred shortly after 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, when an officer tried to pull over the car in the area of Washington Avenue and El Norte Parkway. Walters said he was unsure of the reason for that attempted traffic stop.

In each case, officers broke off the pursuit after a minute or so due to the “extreme” recklessness the fleeing driver exhibited while refusing to yield, the lieutenant said.

It was unknown if any of the teenagers involved in the deadly incident on SR-56 in northern San Diego were in the car during the fleeting road chases in Escondido, Walters noted.

Updated at 4:55 p.m. and 9:25 p.m. Thursday, July 11, 2019

–City News Service