VISTA, Calif. - An Escondido man accused of crashing a car off a North County road while drunk, then leaving a fatally injured passenger behind and hitching a ride to a hospital, plead not guilty Wednesday to DUI and vehicular manslaughter charges.
Ambruno Emilio Domingo is scheduled to return to court for a preliminary hearing February 7. He's being held on $250,000 bail.
The 22-year-old was behind the wheel of a southbound 2007 Mazda 3 that veered off North Broadway in unincorporated Escondido and struck a tree just south of Paso del Norte shortly before 2:30 a.m. Friday, according to the California Highway Patrol.
A resident of the rural neighborhood near Reidy Creek Elementary School heard the crash and went to investigate, arriving to find Domingo climbing out of the damaged sedan, the CHP reported.
Domingo, suffering from minor cuts to his face and arms, asked for a ride to a hospital, and the witness complied, unaware that another person was in the wreckage, CHP public-affairs Officer Mark Latulippe said.
The good Samaritan drove Domingo to Palomar Medical Center, then returned to the site of the accident and encountered Highway Patrol officers and paramedics who had discovered Domingo's passenger, 33-year-old Juan Andres Ramirez of Escondido, dead inside the crumpled car, Latulippe said. It was unclear if the victim succumbed to his injuries before Domingo left the scene of the crash.
The suspect made no mention of Ramirez to the person who took him to the hospital, according to Latulippe.
Domingo faces 10 years in prison if convicted.