While it is important to note that all persons are innocent until proven guilty, a driver was arrested on the suspicion of DUI in an accident that tragically claimed the lives of two San Diego citizens.
A man suspected of driving under the influence struck and killed a married couple walking in a North County neighborhood Sunday morning, officials confirmed.
The fatal collision happened around 6:15 a.m. on eastbound Old Castle Road near Mauka Drive, just west of Valley Center.
California Highway Patrol officials say 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.
CHP PIO Jim Bettencourt says the pedestrians, a married couple that lived in Valley Center, were both killed instantly in the collision.
Their names have not yet been released, but a preliminary report released by the medical examiner’s office Sunday afternoon confirms the victims are a 79-year-old man and 78-year-old woman.
The ME report says a neighbor heard the collision and called authorities.
Bettencourt says the couple is well-known by community members for walking on a regular basis in the area, taking a stroll around the block every day.
“They’re known as a couple that walked this route every morning,” said Bettencourt.
They were walking eastbound with their backs to traffic when Smith slammed into them.
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.
Meanwhile, residents in the area were shaken up by the fatal crash that took the lives of their neighbors.
Resident Christina Rivera told NBC 7 she heard brakes screeching followed by the crash Sunday morning and ran outside 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,” recalled Rivera.
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.