A Pacoima man died early Monday after he was ejected from his van when it was hit by another vehicle and tumbled 150 feet down a freeway embankment, authorities said.
Pedro Salinas Olea, 63, was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics. His passenger, Patricia Castillo, 21, who was also thrown from the van, was taken to Holy Cross Medical Center where she was in serious condition, a California Highway Patrol spokesman said.
The driver of the second vehicle, John Nichols, 21, of Northridge, suffered only minor injuries and was not hospitalized, said CHP Officer David King.
The accident occurred about 3 a.m. when Nichols was driving east on the Simi Valley Freeway near the Topanga Canyon Boulevard exit, King said.
Nichols told investigators that when he swerved his pickup truck to avoid hitting an animal running across the freeway, he accidentally hit the front of Salinas' van, which was traveling in the next lane, King said.
"He said the animal was black, but he didn't know if it was a cat or dog or what," King said.
After his van was hit, Salinas lost control of the vehicle and it went over an embankment, the CHP said.
Neither Salinas nor Castillo was wearing a seat belt, King said.
Nichols was traveling about 65 m.p.h. at the time of the accident, said King, who added that an investigation is continuing.