A 19-year-old UC Berkeley student who went missing early Saturday near USC was struck and killed on the 10 Freeway, authorities said Monday after linking the two incidents.
Eloi Vasquez -- whose disappearance spawned a citywide search as his family pleaded for the public’s help -- was last seen leaving a fraternity party about 1:30 a.m. Saturday.
But an hour after bidding his friends farewell, the California Highway Patrol said, Vasquez tried to run across the eastbound lanes of the 10 Freeway east of the Vermont Avenue exit.
A 2009 Chevrolet Impala traveling at 60 mph in the No. 4 lane hit him, the CHP said in a release. The driver, a 45-year-old woman, was unable to avoid hitting Vasquez, CHP Officer Ramberto Salcido said.
Vasquez, a freshman on Cal’s men’s soccer team, was pronounced dead at the scene.
“Eloi was a wonderful teammate. He was very close to all of his players. And our guys are grieving pretty hard right now,” said UC Berkeley men’s soccer head coach Kevin Grimes.
“We’re in deep shock.”
Vasquez had driven from Northern California to Los Angeles with friends for spring break, police said. He left a party held at the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity in the 600 block of West 28th Street.
The San Rafael, Calif., native went for a walk after telling a friend he wanted to go to the beach.
He never returned to the fraternity.
A friend of Vasquez told KNBC-TV Channel 4 that she received a call from him about 2:18 a.m., and that he said he was very scared and lost. His family said it was not like him to disappear and not call his mother, and several family members rushed to Los Angeles to join the search for him.
A reward for information leading to his location was offered Sunday, and as hours passed, it grew from $25,000 to $100,000.
“We don’t know what happened,” said his grandmother Bonnie Margolin.
He didn’t have money or identification on him, police said.
Friends and family learned of his death Monday after CHP and the Los Angeles Police Department linked the two incidents.
Vasquez was a midfielder on the UC Berkeley men’s soccer team and appeared in 12 games during his freshman season, according to a profile on the campus website.
On the field and off, the soft-spoken Marin Academy graduate was known as a gifted player with a warm sense of humor and a tireless work ethic.
Vasquez trained so relentlessly on off days that his high school and club coaches had to change the locks on the equipment sheds to prevent him from exerting himself, Grimes said.
“It was a safe bet he was headed to the MLS,” said Grimes at a news conference Monday after Vasquez’s death was announced.
“He always put the team before himself and he bought into our culture right away,” said Alex Mangels, a fifth-year senior who choked up while recalling his late teammate.
“On the field he pushed everyone to do their best and be a better player.”
Team members learned of Vasquez’s death during a nearly hourlong team meeting held Monday afternoon, said Grimes, adding that the players are devastated.
Vasquez was sidelined all semester while recovering from knee surgery in December but still brought buoyant energy to supporting his teammates, the coach said.
Times staff writer Lee Romney in Oakland contributed to this report.