Walworth County Marine killed in California crash

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Pedro Oliveira Jr.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Walworth County Marine was killed Saturday by a man who police say was driving drunk north of Escondido, Calif.

Lance Cpl. Robert T. Austin, 20, and three other Marines were traveling north on Interstate 15 early Saturday morning when their vehicle was rear-ended by a Volvo driven by Kyle Cohen, 29, of Chula Vista, Calif., according to a California Highway Patrol news release.

Cohen fell asleep at the wheel and drove into the rear of a Jeep carrying the four Marines stationed at Twentynine Palms, Calif., according to the release.

The Marines' Jeep spun out of control and stopped partially blocking the right shoulder of the freeway bridge over Gopher Canyon Road. The occupants exited the vehicle to look at the damage and were standing on the shoulder to the right of the Jeep, according to the release.

A third vehicle, a Chevy Cavalier driven at high speed by Oscar Tinoco, 18, of Quail Valley collided with the Jeep, according to the release. The collision knocked Austin off the bridge down onto Gopher Canyon Road.

Tinoco and the passenger in his car, a 17-year-old male of Menifee, Calif., left the Cavalier blocking the road and fled the scene on foot while the Marines ran down the hill to help Austin.

A 21-year-old female of Fallbrook, Calif., failed to see the Cavalier blocking the road and collided with the car, veering into the right shoulder of the bridge and down an embankment. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Austin was taken to Palomar Medical Center and pronounced dead shortly after arrival. The other three Marines were treated for minor injuries.

Tinoco and his passenger were caught by police shortly after the crash. Tinoco was arrested on charges of gross vehicular manslaughter, felony driving under the influence, operating with blood-alcohol content of .08 percent or higher and felony hit-and-run.

U.S. Marine Corps 2nd Lt. Joshua Benson said Camp Pendleton officials are working closely with local authorities to investigate the crash.

Austin was an automotive organizational mechanic assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division in Twentynine Palms, according to U.S. Marine Corps officials. He enlisted June 9, 2008.

Austin's personal service awards included the National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

Last updated: 11:45 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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