A man in a wheelchair was struck and thrown about 150 feet in a hit-and-run Tuesday morning as he tried to cross a Fullerton street where residents said there have been several close calls involving pedestrians.
The victim, believed to be in his 60s, was crossing the middle of the street in the 2600 block of East Orangethorpe Avenue near Vine Avenue just before midnight when a vehicle traveling westbound on Orangethorpe hit him and drove off. The victim was ejected about 150 to 170 feet from the wheelchair and landed in the street.
He was not crossing at a controlled intersection or crosswalk and died at the scene, police said.
Police said the victim’s blood-alcohol level was four times the legal limit.
Surveillance video from a nearby business showed sparks flying from the wheelchair as it was dragged on the street. Rebecca Benhumea, a cashier at a liquor store, told NBC4 she heard the crash and ran outside.
"It sounded like a car crash, but I didn't see a car," Benhumea said. "I looked around and I saw something on the (street). It was him."
The victim, a regular customer at the liquor store, had several previous close calls involving vehicles on the same street, said Benhumea. Police confirmed that the victim was involved in a similar crash at the same location March 3 and another collision in Buena Park in March 2008.
"This was not the first time he was hit, on this same street in this same spot," said Benhumea.
Residents said pedestrians frequently cross outside of the crosswalks because the crosswalks are located far apart.
"I used to see him every single day, and he always asked me for change, and I always gave him a couple dollars or buy him something to eat," said resident Eric Reinhard, who believes the victim is someone who he saw regularly in the area. "It's sad, it's sad you know, he didn't deserve that."
Initial reports indicated authorities were searching for a sport utility vehicle in connection with the crash, but investigators later determined they were looking for a light color SUV or pickup with a camper shell. A grainy image taken by a surveillance camera was released in hopes of finding the driver.
Orangethorpe Avenue was shut down in both directions between Magnolia Avenue and Gilbert Street for the investigation.
This is the second death involving a hit-and-run driver and victim in a wheelchair this week in Southern California. A 62-year-old man in a wheelchair was killed by a hit-and-run driver in San Bernardino Thursday.
Oleevia Woo and Samia Khan contributed to this report.