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Hit-and-Run Driver Causes Thousands to Lose Power in Rancho Bernardo

The driver, who may have been under the influence of alcohol, hit a power box just before 8 p.m. Tuesday.

A suspected drunk driver sparked a fire after crashing into a power box on Rancho Bernardo Road, injuring himself and knocking out power to more than 2,300 customers Tuesday night, officials said.

The six-foot high fire was out within five to 10 minutes and no structures were threatened, an official said.

The alleged drunk driver—a 59-year-old Poway man in a gray Lexus—fled the scene, but was later found at a nearby hotel thanks to witness descriptions of his damaged vehicle, police said.

The accident occurred just before 8 p.m. Tuesday at the intersection of Rancho Bernardo Road and Bernardo Center Drive. Drivers began honking at the alleged drunk driver as he sat in a left turn lane heading north on Bernardo Center Drive, prompting him to quickly turn onto Rancho Bernardo Road and lose control, police said.

The driver hit a curb in front of a Mobil gas station on the northwest corner of the intersection, then proceeded up the sidewalk where he hit the San Diego Gas & Electric power box, police said. The driver then ran over a grassy median heading west on Rancho Bernardo Road and began driving into eastbound traffic, narrowly missing head-on collisions with several drivers, police said.

The man then began driving in the correct direction and apparently headed to the Radisson Suite Hotel, where he was soon found and appeared to be under the influence of alcohol, police said.

The man was taken to Pomerado Hospital, but the extent of his injuries was not immediately known, police said. No other collisions occurred and no one else was injured, police said.

Later, an officer said the driver had undergone a blood test at the hospital, but results determining whether he had been drinking were not yet available.

The hit to the power box, an underground switch with two circuits, caused more than 2,300 residents and several traffic intersections in the area to lose power, an SDG&E spokeswoman said. Full restoration was projected for 10:30 p.m., she said.

The crash also caused 30 gallons of mineral oil to spill from the transformer, which firefighters blocked from storm drains with piles of soil, said fire Capt. Chris Babler.

Babler and the other firefighters were at Fire Station No. 33, within eyeshot of the intersection, and responded within less than a minute after a witness came to the station and told them about the crash, he said.

"Cars were everywhere" when firefighters arrived, he said, but there were no other crashes or injuries.

Police officers directed traffic at the intersection and were expected to remain there until power was restored, officials said.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to fix street names.

Jason Noles January 09, 2013 at 06:41 AM
I was working at the Rancho Bernado Vons in the Deli. The power went out for a few seconds. Afterwards the store was back on but all of the light in the parking lot where off.
Dr. Apostle J Reed January 09, 2013 at 05:20 PM
i call that the devil street because i alll way see that happen
chris marquardt January 09, 2013 at 06:35 PM
Our neighborhood (Playmor) was out for about an hour & a half. I know at about 11:30 last night, the center with Baron's was still out. Crews were still working on the box this morning, preventing anyone from turning onto RB Rd from Bernardo Center Dr.

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