ANAHEIM, Calif. – Los Angeles Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart and two others were killed by a suspected drunken driver Thursday, a shocking end to the life of a rookie who had overcome major elbow surgery to realize his big league dreams.
The accident in neighboring Fullerton occurred hours after the 22-year-old pitcher made his season debut with his father in the stands, throwing six scoreless innings against the Oakland Athletics.
The Angels ultimately lost the game, 6-4.
The team postponed Thursday night’s game with Oakland, the final one of their season-opening series.
“It is a tragedy that will never be forgotten,” manager Mike Scioscia said at an Angel Stadium news conference.
Adenhart’s father, Jim, a retired Secret Service agent, walked onto the field in the empty stadium Thursday and spent several moments alone on the pitcher’s mound. Wearing a red sweatshirt, the Angels’ color, he briefly covered his eyes with one hand.
Jim Adenhart also spoke during a closed-door meeting of players and team officials.
“He just wanted to say thank you for the opportunity, thank you for raising his kid in minor league ball on up through the system in the Angels’ organization,” outfielder Torii Hunter said.
Nick Adenhart was a passenger in a silver Mitsubishi Eclipse that was broadsided in an intersection about 12:30 a.m. by a minivan that apparently ran a red light, police said.
The impact spun around both vehicles, and one then struck another car but that driver was not hurt, police said.
The minivan driver fled the crash on foot and was captured about 30 minutes later. Police identified him as Andrew Thomas Gallo, 22, of Riverside, and said he had a suspended license because of a drunken driving conviction.
Preliminary results indicated Gallo’s blood-alcohol level was “substantially over the legal limit” of 0.08 percent, police Lt. Kevin Hamilton said.
Gallo was interviewed by investigators Thursday afternoon. Hamilton said Gallo would be booked later on three counts of murder, three counts of vehicular manslaughter, felony hit-and-run and driving under the influence of alcohol.
A spokeswoman for the Orange County district attorney’s office said charges against Gallo likely wouldn’t be filed Thursday because police were still investigating. Hamilton said he didn’t immediately know if Gallo had an attorney.
Adenhart died in surgery at the University of California, Irvine Medical Center. Henry Nigel Pearson of Manhattan Beach, a 25-year-old passenger in the car, and the driver, 20-year-old Courtney Frances Stewart of Diamond Bar, were pronounced dead at the scene, police said.
Stewart was a student at nearby Cal State Fullerton, where she was a cheerleader in 2007-08.
Another passenger, 24-year-old Jon Wilhite of Manhattan Beach, was in critical condition at UC Irvine Medical Center, although he was expected to survive, a hospital spokesman said. Wilhite played baseball from 2004 to 2008 at Cal State Fullerton.
Stewart’s mother said her daughter and Adenhart had known each other since last season but were not dating as far as she knew, Hamilton said.
The mother said Adenhart and the others had gone dancing at a club about a block away from the crash site, although the crash scene appeared to indicate the car was heading in the direction of the club, Hamilton said.
At the ballpark Wednesday night, Adenhart did his job. He scattered seven hits over six scoreless innings and escaped twice after loading the bases in just his fourth major league start.
“I battled early and it felt good to get out of some jams,” he said.