DUI Suspect Entered Closed Section of Freeway, Struck Worker: CHP

The driver allegedly drove onto a section of freeway that was closed for Caltrans work

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    NEWSLETTERS

    "He was so likeable and just with a big smile on his face, and with him being gone, it just will be a lump in my throat every day," says Susan Mercurio, president of Cut 'N Core. Connor Penhall, 21, was working for the company when he was killed on the 10 Freeway. That victim has been identified as the son of racer Bruce Penhall. Vikki Vargas Reports.

    A DUI suspect drove through a closed section of the 10 Freeway and fatally struck a road worker late Wednesday in the Baldwin Park area, according to the California Highway Patrol.

    The Caltrans subcontractor, identified as 21-year-old Connor Penhall, of Corona, was operating a  concrete saw on the westbound side of the freeway at Francisquito Avenue when  he was killed around 11:45 p.m. Wednesday, said CHP Officer Edmund Zorrilla.   He was pronounced dead the scene.

    CHP Southern Division tweeted Thursday morning, "Our condolences to our brother Bruce Penhall and his family. Your extended CHP family mourns along with you. Rest in Peace."

    CHP: Freeway Clearly Marked Before Crash

    [LA] CHP: 10 Freeway Clearly Marked as Closed Before Fatal Crash
    CHP officers say a closed section of the 10 Freeway was clearly marked with signs and patrol vehicles when a DUI suspect drove through the area and struck a road worker. Annette Arreola reports.

    Bruce Penahall, the victim's father, is a world champion motorcycle speedway race and actor. The younger Penhall also had been racing motorcycles for several years. 

    The suspect was identified as Tatsuhiko Sakamoto, 37, of Arcadia. Caltrans workers told officers that the man attempted to leave the crash site.

    Sakamoto, of Arcadia, was booked for gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, felony DUI and driving without a license, according to the CHP. The suspect did not have a California driver's license, but did have a Hawaii license.

    Sakamoto's bail was set at $200,000, according to jail records.

    [UPDATE: Friday, 1:32 p.m.] Sakamoto was charged with gross vehicular manslaughter  while intoxicated. A court appearance was scheduled for Monday.

    The freeway was closed at about 11 p.m. Wednesday for scheduled construction work and  the suspect drove his Toyota Rav4 into a coned-off area. The road is regularly closed for work from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m.

    "Everything was closed off with signs and cones, and he still came  through that,'' Zorrilla said.

    CHP patrol vehicles with lights on also were positioned along the road, officers said.

    The crash investigation closed a section of the 10 Freeway until about 6:30 a.m. Thursday.

    [UPDATE: Friday, 12:01 p.m.] Watch the video below to see a parade lap conducted in Penhall's honor at Glen Helen Raceway near San Bernardino.

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