A highway worker was killed and another injured early Friday when they were struck by a pickup driven by a suspected drunk driver from San Clemente, who allegedly drove over a long stretch of freeway cones on Interstate 5 in Oceanside.
Salvador Hernandez, 27, of Moreno Valley, died instantly in the 3:45 a.m. crash, said a spokeswoman for the San Diego County Medical Examiner's office. He was employed by Pave Tech, a Carlsbad construction company hired by Caltrans to repave a stretch of Interstate 5 in Oceanside.
California Highway Patrol Officer Teri Reese said Michael Wayne de la Garza, 33, was arrested at the scene and charged with felony drunk driving and felony vehicular manslaughter. Although the crash is still under investigation, Reese said CHP investigators and the district attorney hope to gather enough evidence to charge De la Garza with second-degree murder instead of manslaughter, a lesser offense.
"This was a very violent, very horrific collision. It could've been avoided. He drove 350 feet over cones and made no attempt to swerve," Reese said.
She said De la Garza refused to take a Breathalyzer test and authorities had to draw blood to determine his blood-alcohol level. Investigators are awaiting the results, Reese said.
According to the medical examiner's office, Hernandez's brother, Luis Hernandez, is also employed by Pave Tech and witnessed the accident. He was unhurt.
The injured worker, Gary Jones, 42, of Oceanside, was sitting in a work truck that was struck by De la Garza's pickup. Jones suffered minor injuries, said Reese. He was treated at a local hospital and released.
The accident is being investigated by Cal/OSHA.
"The employee who was fatally injured was in a basket on a truck pulling up cones from the highway," said Cal/OSHA spokesman Dean Fryer. "They had just completed a work shift where they were grinding pavement to redo sections of the highway."
Fryer said Pave Tech has a good safety record, with two minor violations in the past decade.
Cal/OSHA was notified of the accident by Pave Tech and the CHP, Fryer said. He added that Cal/OSHA's investigation, which could take up to six months, will focus on employee training and work-site safety procedures.
The crash occurred in the No. 4 lane of northbound Interstate 5, just north of Highway 76. Caltrans shut down the northbound lanes until about 8 a.m. while CHP officials investigated.
Reese said debris from the collision was scattered across all four lanes all the way to the ramp leading to Camp Pendleton.
According to the CHP accident report, De la Garza's 1999 Ford F-250 pickup was traveling more than 60 mph when it entered the closed construction zone and slammed into the back of the Pave Tech truck.
Traffic was being channeled into the No. 4 lane, by the right shoulder, while workers repaved the other three lanes. Hernandez and other construction workers were inside the cones when the crash occurred, CHP officials said.
Hernandez and Christopher Torres, 25, of Bellflower, were standing at the back of the work truck at the time of the collision, the CHP said. Reese said Torres narrowly escaped being hit. Hernandez died instantly, and his body landed in the No. 2 lane, said Reese.
De la Garza was taken to the Vista County Jail, where he is being held pending a court hearing next week. A woman who answered the telephone at his home declined to comment.
Records and the CHP said De la Garza owned a computer company in San Clemente.
Times Staff Writer Megan Garvey contributed to this report.