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Man Who Left Hurt Baby Is Sought

Accident: Deputies hunt Laguna Hills man after a two-car crash that left his son critically injured. Residents chased the suspect as he fled the scene toward a creek.

October 04, 2002|MAI TRAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Authorities on Thursday were searching for a 23-year-old Laguna Hills man accused of running from an accident in which his baby son was critically injured. Residents of the hilly Casa de Laguna neighborhood of Laguna Hills, where the accident occurred Wednesday, chased the man on scooters, bikes and on foot, but failed to find him.

The infant is in extremely critical condition at Children's Hospital at Mission in Mission Viejo with multiple skull fractures and a bruised lung, investigators said. Deputies are seeking the driver, whom they identified as John Steidinger. He could face felony hit-and-run charges.

"He was the last known driver of the vehicle," said Jim Amormino, spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Department. "He is the father of the child. He owns the car. He hasn't been heard or seen from since [the crash]."

Steidinger is on parole for assault with a deadly weapon and has a record of other offenses, Amormino said.

Steidinger was southbound in his Honda CRX on curvy Santa Vittoria Drive near Camino Jalisco about 9 p.m. Wednesday when he veered into a northbound lane and collided with a Toyota Camry, Amormino said.

After the mangled car stopped on the sidewalk, Steidinger climbed out of the driver's side window and ran toward a tree-lined creek, authorities said. Witnesses, meanwhile, stopped to help his 7-month-old son, who was in a baby seat that was not secured.

The man was driving about 45 mph in a 30 mph zone, Amormino said. Two passengers in the Camry complained of pain and were treated at the scene, deputies said.

Larry Fleming, 25, and neighbor Eugene Hubbard, 37, were chatting in a driveway when they heard the crash. Fleming dialed 911 while Hubbard hopped on his son's bike and rode to the accident site, where, he said, he saw a tall man running and holding his apparently injured arm.

"When I found the baby in the seat, it struck home and I pursued after him," Hubbard said. "I was flabbergasted."

Hubbard and Fleming ran to the creek, joined by neighbors holding flashlights and residents walking their dogs.

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