Why UC Berkeley student climbed onto freeway a mystery

It's unclear why Cal soccer player was crossing 10 Freeway on foot, but pedestrian deaths on freeways not rare

It remains a mystery exactly how and why 19-year-old UC Berkeley soccer player Eloi Vasquez, last seen early Saturday morning at a USC fraternity party, ended up on the 10 Freeway, where he was struck and killed.

Los Angeles police Officer Tony Im said it is quite easy for anyone to walk onto that portion of the freeway north of the USC campus.

MORE: Soccer community mourns death of UC Berkeley athlete

Deaths of pedestrians on freeways are far from rare. Some manage to walk up onramps or offramps. Others are struck walking for help after their cars break down. About 1 in 10 freeway deaths is of a pedestrian.

The Times examined accident data for 2006 and found that 81 pedestrians, ranging in age from 14 to 83, were struck down on freeways in Southern California. Of those, 14 were hit on the 5 Freeway through Los Angeles County.

A 1996 report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found pedestrians accounted for 12% of all interstate highway deaths. Most happened at night. Fewer than 1% of victims were highway construction workers. Nearly a third were "unintended pedestrians" such as motorists with disabled cars, according to Times reports.

But 40% of accidents involved people deliberately walking onto the freeway -- after taking a shortcut or engaging in inexplicable behavior.

Vasquez -- whose disappearance spawned a citywide search as his family pleaded for the public's help -- was last seen leaving a fraternity party about 1:30 a.m. Saturday.

But an hour after bidding his friends farewell, the California Highway Patrol said, Vasquez tried to run across the eastbound lanes of the 10 Freeway east of the Vermont Avenue exit.

A 2009 Chevrolet Impala traveling at 60 mph in the No. 4 lane hit him, the CHP said in a news release. The driver, a 45-year-old woman, was unable to avoid hitting Vasquez, CHP Officer Ramberto Salcido said.

Vasquez, a freshman on Cal's men's soccer team, was pronounced dead at the scene. 

Friends of the soccer player are in mourning.

"Eloi was a wonderful teammate. He was very close to all of his players. And our guys are grieving pretty hard right now," said Kevin Grimes, head coach of the soccer team. "We're in deep shock."

Vasquez had driven from Northern California to Los Angeles with friends for spring break, police said. He left a party held at the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity in the 600 block of West 28th Street.

The San Rafael, Calif., native went for a walk after telling a friend he wanted to go to the beach.

He never returned to the fraternity.

A friend of Vasquez told KNBC-TV Channel 4 that he called her about 2:18 a.m. and said he was very scared and lost. His family said it was not like him to disappear and not call his mother, and several family members rushed to Los Angeles to join the search for him.

A reward for information leading to his location was offered Sunday, and as hours passed, it grew from $25,000 to $100,000.

"We don’t know what happened," said his grandmother Bonnie Margolin.

He didn’t have money or identification on him, police said.

Vasquez appeared in 12 soccer games during his freshman season, according to a profile on the campus website. 

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