The driver of a stolen vehicle who was fleeing deputies crashed into a gardener, killing him, and then struck several parked vehicles, causing another crash and a fire in a series of events that left PCH in Malibu shut down for hours on Wednesday morning.
The driver, whose vehicle burst into flames, was pulled from the burning stolen Mazda 6 by responding deputies, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Bob Boese.
The incident began about 7:50 a.m. when a deputy patrolling Zuma Beach spotted the stolen car. The deputy made a U-turn and began following the driver while calling for backup.
A sergeant and another deputy joined the chase and "initiated a traffic stop," Boese said. The Mazda pulled over and a female passenger got out – but then the driver sped away again.
For 15 to 20 seconds, sheriff's vehicles pursued the Mazda but the on-scene supervisor canceled the chase because of the Mazda's high rate of speed and "erratic" driving, Boese said.
Moments later, the Mazda crashed into a pedestrian in the 27500 block of Pacific Coast Highway, and then into three parked vehicles. The parked vehicle crash caused another collision with a truck traveling on PCH.
Deputies saw a "fireball in the sky" and arrived to find the Mazda aflame and pulled the driver out, the sergeant said.
Described as a white man about 22 years old who is linked to various addresses in Santa Monica and Venice, the driver was taken to a hospital for treatment, Boese said. Deputies were treated on scene for possible smoke inhalation.
The pedestrian victim, who was killed instantly, has been identified by authorities only as a 28-year-old Hispanic man who is not a Malibu resident. Residents in the neighborhood of multimillion-dollar homes said the victim was a popular gardener in the area.
He was taking trash out of a residence when he was killed, Boese said.
The passenger who got out of the Mazda has been taken into custody as a "witness," Boese said.
The Mazda was stolen from the Los Angeles Police Department's Pacific Division area, according to the sergeant.