Man, 23, Dies After Unseen Crash

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 23-year-old Westminster man died early Thursday after being trapped nearly five hours in his car, which crashed through a chain-link fence, struck a concrete highway sound barrier and then was hidden by foliage, police said.

Christopher Pratt was traveling east on Heil Avenue, along the Westminster-Huntington Beach border, about 2:30 a.m. in a Honda Civic when he apparently lost control of the car or became disoriented, police said. Instead of turning around or stopping where Heil Avenue ends in a cul-de-sac at the San Diego Freeway, he drove through the fence and hit the sound barrier, according to investigators.

A resident told police she heard a noise in the early-morning hours and looked out her window but saw nothing.

Lt. Ron Weber of the Westminster Police Department said, "It would have been dark, and the chain-link fence popped right back up, and it would have been really hard to notice."

Someone who was passing by noticed skid marks several hours later and discovered the crumpled car. Pratt was alive when paramedics arrived but died about 7:30 a.m., before they could free him from the wreckage, authorities said.

"Who knows what would have happened if we had found him earlier," Weber said. "He was wearing a seat belt, but he might have been so hurt he would have died anyway. . . . We'll never know."

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