Police search for Vista hit-and-run driver

Officers: Good Samaritan struck on Highway 78

VISTA, Calif. - Authorities asked for the public's help Tuesday in finding a North County motorist who sped away after striking and seriously injuring a good Samaritan who apparently ran onto Highway 78 to help two drivers who had just been in crashes caused by a mattress in the roadway.

The wrecks began about 11:30 p.m. Monday, when a 36-year-old Oceanside woman in a Nissan Altima crashed into a center divider while attempting to avoid a mattress on eastbound Highway 78 west of Vista Village Drive, according to California Highway Patrol Officer Jim Bettencourt.

A short time later, a 30-year-old Encinitas man traveling in the same direction struck the mattress with his 1994 Toyota pickup, Bettencourt said in a statement. The pickup spun out of control and struck the Altima before coming to rest on its side, he said.

A woman who presumably witnessed or overheard one or both of the crashes from frontage road ran onto Highway 78 to render aid, Bettencourt said.

After checking on the Altima driver in the center divider, the woman attempted to run back across eastbound lanes. She was struck in the slow lane by a dark sedan with an antenna sticking out the rear window, Bettencourt said.

The driver kept going.

 The good Samaritan was transported to Palomar Medical Center suffering from major injuries, Bettencourt said. They Altima driver was taken to Tri-City Medical Center with moderate injuries, he said, adding that the pickup driver was not hurt.

A fourth crash, involving three vehicles, also occurred on eastbound Highway 78 as a result of motorists trying to avoid the wreckage from the previous accidents, but only one person from the three-car crash was taken to a hospital, according to Bettencourt. That victim was taken to Tri-City Medical Center suffering from minor injuries, he said.

Anyone with information about the hit-and-run crash or the location of the hit-and-run vehicle was asked to call the CHP at 858-637-3800.

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