One dead when car crashes into light pole, driver flees

The passenger of a compact sedan was killed this morning when the car crashed into a light pole in Lincoln Heights and the driver fled, authorities said.

- It started as a hit and run and ended in yet another example of the tragic consequences of drinking and driving.

The front end of the white sedan was crushed, pieces of the metal pole it had crashed into evidence of just how forceful the impact had been.

Inside, the  passenger was dead. But the driver was nowhere to be found until...he walked up to me seconds before my 4:30 am live-shot and confessed on TV.

"We were drinking. Record it", Jose said to me in front of our camera, which was already rolling.

And as the camera rolled, Jose kept talking, telling us he was behind the wheel of the mangled car just feet away from us.

His story was complicated. At first his cousin had been driving, he said, when suddenly in the "middle of the freeway he stopped" and got out of the car, forcing Jose to get behind the wheel, although he says he didn't want to because he had been drinking.

But he drove, he admitted, and then lost control of the car, slamming into a pole on Broadway in Lincoln Heights.

As for the hit and run, Jose claimed he left to get help.

It was clear he didn't know his cousin Juan was dead, his body still inside the car.
And it wasn't my place to break the news to him so I called over a nearby LAPD officer.

And off Jose went.

I watched as officers listened to his story, told him about Juan and then gave him
a field sobriety test. He was arrested for driving under the influence.

Jose had been with another man who introduced himself to me as his brother, making him the dead man's cousin too.

He watched quietly as his brother was arrested. And then asked me "How's my cousin? Did they take him to the hospital? Do you know what hospital he's in?".

I told him I'd get the officer in charge to speak to him.

His eyes met mine and I knew that he knew that I had the answer and it wasn't good.

In addition to facing charges for driving under the influence, Jose will possibly face vehicular manslaughter charges for the death of his cousin Juan.

My heart hurt for this family.

Two cousins out for a night of irresponsible drinking and driving. Now one is dead and the other is in jail for killing him.

Everyone lost.
 

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