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Driver Arrested in Freeway Death : Accidents: A Garden Grove man on probation for drunk driving was in jail after police said he drove his Bronco into the rear of a car, running it off the freeway.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Drunk driving was blamed in a freeway death for the second time over the Labor Day weekend when a Long Beach man was killed and his female companion seriously injured early Monday after they were run off the Garden Grove Freeway.

Authorities said the driver charged in the incident was on probation from a drunk-driving conviction two years ago.

It was the second such freeway accident in Orange County in as many days.

Overall, the California Highway Patrol reported a total of 148 drunk-driving arrests in Orange County between 6 p.m. Friday and 6 a.m. Monday. Statewide, the CHP total was 2,447, compared to 2,240 a year ago.

CHP Officer Andy Guitierrez in Los Angeles County attributed some of the increase in drunk-driving arrests to a recent lowering of the state’s legal blood alcohol limit from 0.10% to 0.08%.

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More than 50 fatalities were reported statewide, slightly more than last year.

Police said holiday traffic was thick, particularly in the coastal cities, as thousands flocked to Orange County’s beaches for the final three-day weekend of the summer season.

In Monday’s fatal crash on the Garden Grove Freeway in that city, the CHP arrested Alberto Ochoa, 25, of Garden Grove on suspicion of second-degree murder. Officers said Ochoa drove his 1987 Ford Bronco into the rear of a 1987 Honda Prelude on the westbound Garden Grove Freeway, causing the Honda to spin out of control, plunge over an embankment and ram into a tree.

The coroner’s office said the Honda’s driver, 30-year-old Kevin Presley of Long Beach, died instantly of head injuries.

Julie Daniels, 28, of Long Beach, who owns the Honda driven by Presley, suffered serious head and spinal chord injuries, the CHP said. She was reported in critical condition at UCI Medical Center in Orange.

The collision occurred about 1:50 a.m., CHP spokesman Lyle Whitten said, adding that Ochoa was on probation for a November, 1988, conviction for driving under the influence.

Whitten said that Ochoa did not stop at the scene and took the Haster Street off-ramp. A witness whom Ochoa had passed on the freeway followed him on surface streets, then drove in front of Ochoa, forcing him to stop.

The witness, Brian Simured, 38, of Garden Grove, was aided later by the unidentified occupants of another car, Whitten said. Together, they held Ochoa until the CHP arrived.

“They didn’t have to hold this guy physically,” Whitten said. “He was noncombative. There were pieces . . . of the victims’ car embedded in the front of his vehicle.”

Simured could not be reached for comment.

According to Whitten, Ochoa admitted to CHP officers that he had been drinking at his sister-in-law’s residence in Corona. He had left his wife and children in Corona before attempting to drive home to Garden Grove.

Whitten said Ochoa was being held at the Orange County Jail in lieu of $250,000 bail.

In another accident, a motorcyclist led Buena Park police on a high-speed chase that began just west of Knott’s Berry Farm about 1:30 p.m. Monday and ended less than five minutes later in Anaheim.

Buena Park Police Lt. Bill Cox said a patrolman attempted to stop Ricky Lee Compton, 27, of La Mirada for an unsafe lane change on La Palma Avenue near Knott Avenue, but the motorcycle rider sped off. He managed to elude the patrolman in a residential area near Beach Boulevard, but then crashed the motorcycle in an attempt to turn onto Ball Road, Cox said, adding:

“He took that corner about 45 miles an hour and just couldn’t keep control at that speed.”

Cox said Compton was arrested as he tried to flee after the accident. He was taken into custody after being treated for minor injuries. Police Monday night were still trying to find out whether the motorcycle had been stolen.

In an earlier incident on Sunday, two Garden Grove men were killed when a pickup truck driven by a suspected drunken driver collided with their cars, which were stopped on the shoulder of the Santa Ana Freeway north of Jamboree Road in Irvine. One of the victims had parked his car next to the second victim’s vehicle and had walked over to talk to him when the pickup driver swerved across the lane and ran into them, according to investigators.

Police said the pickup driver, Steven Robert Garcia, 30, of Los Angeles, was driving without a license. He was booked on suspicion of felony drunken driving and vehicular manslaughter.

Times staff writer Jerry Hicks contributed to this story.


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