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Missing college athlete died on Los Angeles freeway, police say

    This undated photo provided by the Los Angeles Police Department shows 19-year-old Eloi Vasquez. The University of California

LOS ANGELES » A University of California, Berkeley, soccer player who disappeared after leaving a weekend party was killed by a car as he ran across a Los Angeles freeway, police said Monday.

The 19-year-old freshman, Eloi Vasquez, died early Saturday on eastbound Interstate 10 about a mile from the University of Southern California after he was seen leaving a fraternity party, the California Highway Patrol said.

A woman said a man ran in front of her and she was unable to avoid hitting him, said Officer Edgar Figueroa, a CHP spokesman. The man was struck just east of Vermont Avenue. The investigation was ongoing.

Vasquez was pronounced dead at the scene. He was not carrying identification, which set off a missing persons search until the coroner identified him.

Vasquez, who was on spring break in Los Angeles, had left the party to take a walk with no money and no wallet, family and police said.

His mother, Wendy Margolin, said he later called a friend, telling her he was lost and in trouble.

Figueroa did not know if Vasquez had alcohol or drugs in his system. Toxicology screens to detect substances usually take weeks to complete.

The family had offered a $100,000 reward for information about his whereabouts.

"Needless to say, we are heartbroken, we are devastated upon finding out this news," Wesley Mallette, associate athletic director at the Berkeley campus, said at a news conference.

"Eloi Vasquez was a wonderful young man, a fantastic student athlete, dedicated and devoted to everything he did."

Vasquez’s soccer teammates at Cal were informed of his death at a meeting that lasted more than an hour.

Vasquez had traveled with other teammates to Southern California for the break and was supposed to return Monday to resume the semester, coach Kevin Grimes said.

"Eloi was a wonderful teammate. He was very close to all of his players. Our guys are grieving pretty hard right now," Grimes said.

Vasquez, a freshman midfielder, had hurt his knee during the year and was still recovering from surgery in December.

His coach described him as one of the hardest workers on the team and said he always stayed after practice. His youth soccer coaches would have to change the lock on the equipment shed to ensure he didn’t work too hard on his own, Grimes said.

"When you combine his talent level with that mentality it was a safe bet that he was headed to the MLS," the U.S. professional soccer league, Grimes said.

A handful of complications, including the lack of any ID card, kept authorities from identifying Vasquez and kept the missing persons case alive into Monday.

Coroner’s officials had worked with the CHP and Los Angeles police, determining that the man struck on the freeway was likely Vasquez because of where he was found and his age, Figueroa said.

But fingerprinting of the teenager did not immediately yield any matches to criminal or other databases, coroner’s spokesman Craig Harvey said. He was ultimately identified via a fingerprint match with the Department of Motor Vehicles, but only after the spelling of his name was clarified.

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