A California Highway Patrol cruiser. Photo by Chris Stone

A 54-year-old motorist apparently in the throes of a medical emergency died Friday after his car veered into a center median on Interstate 8 in the far southeastern reaches of San Diego County and caught fire, authorities reported.

The El Cajon resident was headed west when he pulled over onto the northern shoulder of the freeway near Inkopah Park Road in Jacumba shortly after noon, according to the California Highway Patrol.

After a few moments, his 2015 Volkswagen Passat began rolling again, crossing the westbound side of the freeway and drifting into a center-divider area, where it came to a stop in a patch of brush, CHP public-affairs Officer Travis Garrow said.

Passers-by rushed over to the man and pulled him to safety as the shrubbery and his vehicle began burning, apparently due to the heat of the car engine, Garrow said.

Emergency crews took the victim to a nearby Border Patrol station where an air ambulance awaited, but the patient, whose identity was not immediately available, died before the helicopter could depart. His name was withheld pending family notification.

It took firefighters about five minutes to put out the small vegetation blaze in the freeway median, Cal Fire Capt. Frank Lococo said.

Investigators believe the motorist pulled over due to some sort of medical crisis that proved fatal, the CHP spokesman said.

Updated at 5:09 p.m. Jan. 15, 2021

— City News Service

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