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San Diego County sheriff's deputy killed in crash

February 28, 2010 |  9:43 pm

A San Diego County sheriff’s deputy crashed into a bridge embankment and died early Sunday while pursuing a driver who was allegedly drunk and going the wrong way on a freeway, sheriff’s officials and the California Highway Patrol said.

Deputy Ken Collier, 39, died at a hospital shortly after the accident near Santee about 3:20 a.m. A county dispatcher who was in the car with him was injured but is expected to fully recover.

Moments after the crash, other sheriff’s deputies and the Highway Patrol stopped the suspect, Jose Jasso Lopez, 22, who was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and vehicular manslaughter, CHP spokesman Brian Pennings said.

According to the CHP and Sheriff’s Department, Collier was driving westbound on California 52 when he spotted a car heading toward him on the same side of the highway. He made a U-turn to pursue the car, turning into an auxiliary lane in the highway median, but then struck a bridge abutment between Mast Boulevard and Santo Road, near Mission Trails Regional Park in northeastern San Diego County.

“It’s a sad day,” Pennings said, adding that Collier wanted to stop the driver before someone was seriously hurt. He said Jasso “showed outward signs of intoxication” when he was stopped and was determined to be under the influence.

The dispatcher who was riding with Collier, Ryan Debellis, was being held at a hospital overnight for observation but was expected to be released Monday, Pennings said.

--Mitchell Landsberg

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