A man suspected of driving under the influence struck and killed a married couple who were taking their daily walk in a San Diego-area neighborhood Sunday morning, officials confirmed.
The victims, 79-year-old Carl Ackermann and 78-year-old Eunice Ackermann, lived in Valley Center and were often spotted by their North County neighbors walking and holding hands each morning.
On Sunday, the Ackermanns were walking on eastbound Old Castle Road near Mauka Drive around 6:15 a.m. when they were struck by an oncoming car.
California Highway Patrol officials said 20-year-old Oceanside resident Earl Smith Jr. -- suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol -- was driving a Toyota Corolla at an unknown speed on Old Castle Road when he drifted off the roadway and slammed into two pedestrians.
They were walking eastbound with their backs to traffic when the vehicle struck them.
CHP PIO Jim Bettencourt says the victims were killed instantly in the collision.
Resident Christina Rivera told NBC 7 she heard brakes screeching followed by the crash and ran to see what happened. When she went outside, she saw the two victims lying lifeless in the street.
Rivera was saddened to hear the couple walking had been killed in the suspected DUI crash.
“This couple, we saw them every day. I just saw them the other day walking. They were [always] around the neighborhood, and we’d wave at them. They were just always holding hands,” Rivera recalled.
Resident Joanne Martucci also heard the crash after letting her dogs out, and then ran outside.
“I couldn’t believe what I saw – the carnage,” Martucci told NBC 7. “It was just the saddest thing. Then I realized it was the couple that walks down the street every day, holding hands.”
“I see them daily, all the time. It’s like I knew them. It’s terrible; it’s sad,” Leonard Martucci, Joanne's husband, told NBC 7.
Many residents on Old Castle Road say the street is dangerous, and say they've witnessed many collisions there over the years.
Smith was arrested on suspicion of felony DUI following the crash. He was not injured, Bettencourt said.
He was booked into the Vista Detention Facility on DUI charges and gross vehicular manslaughter, and is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday.