1 dead, 1 hurt in fall from freeway bridge

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SAN DIEGO -- One young man died and a second was critically injured early Wednesday when they plunged off a three-story freeway bridge near Lake Hodges after they and some other friends pulled over and got out of their car to urinate.

The driver of the Kia Optima slowed to a stop alongside a carpool lane on southbound Interstate 15 south of Via Rancho Parkway in Rancho Bernardo at about 2:45 a.m., the California Highway Patrol reported.

Pablo Barajas, 22, and one of his companions exited the sedan, hopped over the concrete barrier wall alongside the freeway -- apparently not realizing that they were on an elevated stretch of roadway -- and fell about 35 feet into a dry riverbed, according to the county Medical Examiner's Office.

Barajas, a San Bernardino resident, died at the scene. Medics took the other man, also 22, to Palomar Medical Center in Escondido for treatment of severe injuries. His name was not released.

The driver of the Kia, 25-year-old Michael Jonathan Le of Sun City, was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor driving while intoxicated, CHP public affairs Officer Jake Sanchez said.

It was unclear where Le and his passengers were coming from or going when they decided to stop alongside the interstate to relieve themselves, the spokesman said.


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