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By Jorge Casuso
March 18, 2019 -- A man riding a scooter was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Ocean Park Friday night, marking the first traffic fatality in Santa Monica since 2017 and the city's first involving a scooter.
The fatal collision took place at about 8:30 p.m. at the 2700 block of 3rd Street near the Venice border, said Lt. Saul Rodriguez, the Police Department spokesman.
A preliminary investigation found that the 41-year-old male victim was riding a personally owned “City Hopper” electric scooter southbound on 3rd Street "when for unknown reasons he fell onto the roadway," Rodriguez said.
"As the victim remained on the roadway, he was struck by a vehicle traveling southbound on 3rd Street," he said.
"The driver stopped and exited his vehicle," Rodriguez said, but he "fled the scene prior to first responders arriving."
Fire Department paramedics were treating the victim at the scene when police arrived, Rodriguez said.
They transported the victim -- who was not wearing a helmet -- to a local hospital in critical condition.
He died off his injuries "a short time later," Rodriguez said.
Police are seeking the public's help finding the suspected hit-and-run driver.
Witnesses described the suspect as a white male, 30 to 40 years old, 6’2” tall with a medium build and a shaved head or short hair and wearing prescription glasses.
He was driving what witnesses describe as an older model off-white or tan 4-door sedan, possibly a Toyota Camry "with possible damage to the front passenger’s side of the vehicle."
Friday's accident marked the first traffic fatality in Santa Monica since November 2017.
That year, eight pedestrians were killed ("Eighth Pedestrian Killed This Year in Santa Monica," November 21, 2017).
The accident also is the first fatality involving an electric scooter, a mode of transportation that has proliferated in the beach city since it was introduced about a year and a half ago.
A UCLA study released earlier this year found that some 40 percent of e-scooter riders admitted to UCLA Medical Center emergency rooms in Santa Monica and Westwood suffered head injuries ("E-Scooter Injuries 'Common,' Sometimes 'Severe,' UCLA Study Finds," January 25, 2019).
Of the 249 e-scooter riders presented to the emergency department, 183 (80.2 percent) were injured in a fall, 25 (11 percent) in a collision with an object and 20 (8.8) percent were hit by a moving vehicle.
Researchers found that only 4.4 percent of the injured riders were documented wearing a helmet.
Helmets were required under California law during the study period.
On January 1, a new State law made helmet use optional for electric scooter riders older than 18.
The police investigation into Friday's accident is ongoing and investigators are interested in speaking with anyone who was in the area near the time of the collision.
Anyone with additional information should call Investigator Scott Pace at (310) 458-8954 or the Santa Monica Police Department at (310) 458-8495.
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