SANTA CRUZ COUNTY — A Watsonville man died Monday after he bolted into oncoming traffic on Highway 1 and was struck by a vehicle near 41st Avenue.
The incident was the most serious of a busy New Year's Eve for the California Highway Patrol, but a relatively quiet night for other county law enforcement agencies.
According to CHP Officer Sam Courtney, at about 5:45 p.m., an officer approached the man, whose vehicle had become disabled and was partially blocking the slow lane on Highway 1 north of 41st Avenue. As the officer conversed with the 38-year-old driver, who was identified Wednesday as Roberto Garcia of Watsonville, they noticed he showed symptoms of intoxication.
Garcia then started to walk into traffic lanes, Courtney said, and the officer attempted to pull him away. But, he reportedly broke away and ran across both southbound lanes of Highway 1, jumping over the guardrail and into the northbound lanes of the highway, directly in the path of a Subaru.
The Subaru, driven by a 46-year-old woman from San Jose, struck Garcia before pulling over, according to Courtney. The officer, a passerby and other arriving officers began CPR on the man, but he was pronounced deceased at 6 p.m.
Garcia was suspected of being under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, which is thought to be a factor in the collision, Courtney said. The driver of the Subaru is cooperating with the investigation, and she was not suspected to be driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
During the Maximum Enforcement Period, which ran from 6:01 p.m. Dec. 28 through 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, the CHP arrested 24 people in the county for driving under the influence, according to Courtney. This marked nine more arrests from the previous year, although this year's period was a day longer.
All available CHP personnel were on duty, focusing on impaired drivers, distracted driving, speeding and seatbelt violations.
The CHP investigated 18 collisions in the county during the period, Courtney said.
On Monday at about 6:25 p.m., a man was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, as well as hit and run, after he plowed his vehicle through a concrete barrier and struck a tree on Highway 1 near Highway 17.
Sylvester Lee Basnight, 58, of Santa Cruz, fled the scene and was later arrested by the CHP, according to Courtney.
Early the next morning, a man suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol led CHP officers on a chase on Highway 17.
According to Courtney, at about 2:41 a.m. on Tuesday, officers attempted to stop a Mitsubishi Outlander for running a red light on Ocean Street at Plymouth Street. However, the driver of the vehicle, 19-year-old Eliazar Santa Cruz, reportedly failed to pull over and led the officers on a pursuit northbound on Highway 17.
The Mitsubishi exited onto El Rancho Drive, where it ran over a spike strip, disabling several of its tires, before Santa Cruz steered it back onto northbound Highway 17 at Pasatiempo Drive.
Shortly later, the Mitsubishi veered to the right, drove up a dirt hill and smashed into multiple trees on the shoulder of the highway.
Santa Cruz was transported to Valley Medical Center for moderate injuries, and was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, as well as reckless evading of a peace officer.
Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Sgt. Dee Baldwin said New Year's Eve for the SCSO was "relatively non-remarkable," with no major incidents, consistent with the previous year.
Watsonville Police spokeswoman Michelle Pulido said Watsonville was quiet in terms of incidents as well.
In Santa Cruz, police enacted a "Safety Enhancement Zone," where certain Santa Cruz Municipal Code violations incur “triple fines.”
More than 2,000 people gathered for a city-sponsored countdown celebration at the Town Clock which included music and a small fireworks display to bring in the New Year. Between 5 p.m. on Monday and 2 a.m. on Tuesday, officers responded to 119 calls for service and arrested 18 people, mostly consisting of public intoxication, according to SCPD spokeswoman Joyce Blaschke.
Seven citations were issued, six of which were triple fine citations.