ESCONDIDO - Authorities were on the hunt Tuesday for the driver of a white, U-Haul-style box truck involved in an Escondido hit-and-run crash that killed a 23-year-old man.
Benjamin Ramirez, an Escondido resident known to walk in the area, was struck on Bear Valley Parkway west of Boyle Avenue around 10:10 p.m. Monday, according to the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office and California Highway Patrol Officer Jim Bettencourt.
"The truck slowed down for a second but then continued westbound," Bettencourt said in a statement.
Paramedics took Ramirez to Palomar Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at about 10:45 p.m.
10News learned Ramirez spent the day working at Albertsons, and then went to his friend's house where they laughed a lot and played video games.
Ernesto Ratto said his friend left to walk home to his parents' place, and he did not find out until the following morning that Ramirez had been hit and left to die.
"He was a really cheerful guy. Even when he was down, he was up. He always spoke what was on his mind. He was just really a cool guy and I'm going to miss him," Ratto said. "He was a really good friend."
An Albertsons co-worker described Ramirez as always smiling.
"He was the most sweetest guy and so sad to see him go and my heart goes out to his family and my prayers do, too," the co-worker said.
Witnesses told investigators that the vehicle that struck Ramirez was a white, U-Haul-style medium-sized box truck that made a loud rattling sound when moving, Bettencourt said. He noted that the vehicle likely has front-end damage from the accident.
A witness, who was shaken up and did not want to be identified, said he saw Ramirez walking in a dark hooded sweatshirt. He said, since it was dark and Ramirez was in dark clothing, he put his brights on him because he wasn't sure what he was seeing.
The witness got out of the car and was about to take his groceries into his house when he said he heard a horrific impact of the truck hitting Ramirez.
He ran over to help but said it was too late. The witness is begging people to be alert and said he does not want this to happen to anyone else.
The witness had a message for the driver, saying he also panicked for a moment after what he saw but asked for the driver to turn himself or herself in so the family won't always have to wonder.
A witness said Ramirez was thrown about 70 feet.
Anyone with information about the accident was asked to call the CHP office in Oceanside at 760-757-1675 during business hours, or 858-637-3800 after business hours.
Donations to help the family can be made online or in person at the Albertson's store at 1509 East Valley Parkway in Escondido.