Tom Anderlik was a young man who couldn't resist helping someone with car trouble.
It seemed that he was always late because he was stopping to help someone who was stranded, relatives say.
Anderlik had just moved to his aunt's house in Oceanside several months ago from a small town in Washington, and his aunt says she kept warning her 19-year-old nephew not to do that in California.
But he did, and on Friday morning Anderlik was killed while trying to help an allegedly drunk woman who had parked in the middle of Interstate 15 in Fallbrook, authorities said.
Anderlik died when he was crushed between two cars about 12:10 a.m. on I-15, north of California 76, said Phil Konstantin, a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol.
The Encinitas woman he was trying to help had sideswiped a semitrailer rig when she entered a freeway off-ramp in the wrong direction, Konstantin said.
Dana Lowry, 25, then drove her Saab about three-tenths of a mile before stopping in the lane next to the far right-hand lane, Konstantin said.
She then reportedly jumped out, stood on the left side of her car and began waving her arms, which attracted the attention of Anderlik, who was on his way home.
Anderlik parked on the right shoulder, walked onto the freeway and was standing at the back of Lowry's car trying to help her when he was struck by a Cadillac driven by Henry Preiss, 38, of Ramona.
Preiss, who was not cited, suffered scrapes and bruises. He was treated and released from Palomar Medical Center, a nursing supervisor said.
Lowry was not injured and was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter, drunk driving and causing an injury while driving drunk, authorities said. Lowry posted $10,000 bail and was released from County Jail in Vista on Friday morning.
Lowry could not be reached for comment in repeated attempts Friday.
"The fact that it was a drunk woman would not have mattered," said Karen Anderlik, the good Samaritan's mother who lives in Kennewick, Wash. "I know my son was doing something good. And yes, it was a loss; he was 19, and a lot of people could have been touched by him, but I guess God knows better."
Anderlik is also survived by his father, Tom, and his 13-year-old brother, Michael.
Anderlik was raised in Kennewick, was active in a church youth group and played basketball in high school, his mother said. He joined the Air Force when he graduated, but was discharged six weeks into boot camp when an old knee injury flared up.
He moved to Oceanside shortly after Easter to help his aunt and uncle start a new business, and worked six days a week as an assistant manager at The Hitting Place in Temecula, an indoor batting cage. He was scheduled to start classes at a community college Monday and was planning to become a police officer, said Judy Lucia, his aunt.
He also was planning to move out on his own at the end of the month.
"Tom thinks he's invincible," his mother said, still speaking of her son as alive several hours after his death. "He's 6-foot-6, and he never thought he would get into any trouble."
"He's just your typical 19-year-old kid, kind of squirrelly sometimes, but he has a real good heart. . . . He was always helping people. I would have a neighbor come up to me and say, 'Yeah, I saw your son pushing someone's car out of an intersection again.' "
But that kind of behavior, said his aunt, drove her "nuts" when he moved to Oceanside.
"He was always stopping to help someone. We kept telling him, 'Don't do that. This is California--you just don't do that here,' " said Lucia, who has lived in Oceanside about 10 years.
Last week, he was late coming home because he had helped a Camp Pendleton Marine change a flat tire, and "then Tom followed him all the way back to the base," Lucia said. "It was ridiculous."
When she first heard about his death Friday, Lucia said she felt "a lot of anger. It was like, 'I told you so,' darn it."
She added, "He liked to tinker with cars, and I think he always helped people because I guess he knew what it was like to be stranded. Well, I guess he's probably helping someone push those chariot things around, or whatever, in heaven now."