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Police searching for driver of big rig involved in fatal hit-and-run in Vernon

Vernon hit and run

A man was killed early Saturday when the pickup truck he was riding in collided with a big rig and was dragged across an intersection in Vernon. The big rig driver then unhooked his trailer and drove away, police said.

(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Vernon police are searching for the driver of a big rig they say was involved in a fatal hit-and-run before unhooking his trailer and fleeing the scene, authorities said.

The incident began with a minor traffic collision near the corner of Soto and 37th streets about 3:10 a.m. Saturday, said Det. Sgt. Brandon Gray.

The truck driver fled the scene westbound on 37th and ran a red light at Santa Fe Avenue, Gray said. A Chevy pickup truck traveling north on Santa Fe crashed into the trailer and became pinned underneath, Gray said.

The big rig dragged the pickup across the intersection, he said. Then “the driver of the tractor-trailer got out, raised the trailer up, disconnected it from his tractor and then fled westbound on 37th Street,” Gray said.

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A male passenger in the pickup truck was declared dead at the scene. The driver was transported to a hospital with minor injuries, Gray said.

Police located the tractor cab abandoned about a mile away.

“We are still looking for the driver,” Gray said.

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 On Saturday, Vernon police identified Guillermo Ortiz Jr., a Latino male in his 20s, as a “person of interest” in the case. But Gray stopped short of saying Ortiz was the driver of the big rig.

“He is somebody we desperately want to talk with,” he said.

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Gray said he had spoken with several witnesses and officials of the Texas-based company connected to the truck.

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“To have such a lack of concern for somebody else’s life .... It’s pretty callous to just drive off like that,” Gray said.

matt.stevens@latimes.com

Twitter: @ByMattStevens

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