The San Bernardino County coroner has identified two men killed in a crash early Monday after a brief high-speed pursuit by a sheriff's deputy.
Rudy Javier Vargas, 30, of San Bernardino, died instantly after the Honda Accord he was driving slammed into a Ford Mustang near the intersection of Rialto and Mt. Vernon avenues in San Bernardino, said Randy Emon, a supervising deputy coroner. Vargas' vehicle was being chased by a San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy shortly before the crash, officials said.
Alejandro Peyro, 26, of Colton, was a passenger in the Mustang, Emon said. He, too, was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the Mustang suffered minor injuries, officials said.
A sheriff's deputy began chasing Vargas' speeding Honda in the city of Colton around 5 a.m. and tried to pull the car over, to no avail, said Eileen Hards, a spokeswoman for the San Bernardino Police Department, which is handling the investigation.
The deputy "backed off the vehicle because he was driving so erratically," and the Honda continued north at speeds estimated at 80 to 100 mph, Hards said. As the deputy tried to catch up, he saw "smoke in the distance" and called it into the Police Department, she said.
The Honda sped through a stoplight at the intersection of Rialto and Mt. Vernon, slamming into the Mustang.
Peyro's fiance, Sarah Sillas, told NBC Los Angeles that he was a father of two, and that he was heading to work with a co-worker when their vehicle was hit.
"He was full of life," she said. "He loved his community."
The Honda and the Mustang crashed through the fence of a nearby business, hit its building and came to rest in the parking lot, authorities said. The impact was so great that the Mustang's engine came completely out of the vehicle and landed in the middle of the intersection.
Police told NBC that Vargas had a suspended license.
Earlier this month, another motorist was killed in a San Bernardino crash after a police pursuit of a stolen vehicle, and two suspects were hospitalized.
On March 8, Cornelius "Corn" Holly of Victorville was killed when the stolen vehicle T-boned Holly's Honda Civic. Holly was eastbound through an intersection where the 215 Freeway exits onto 5th Street when he was struck, San Bernardino Police Lt. Rich Lawhead said.
"It's the worst scenario that plays out: Somebody innocent gets hurt," Lawhead told KTLA. "We have to strike a balance ... We want to stop the criminal ... but we don't want innocent lives lost in the process."