Connor Penhall, 21-Year-Old Caltrans Worker and Son of Racer/Actor Bruce Penhall, Killed by Alleged Drunk Driver

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Thu, Apr 5, 2012 at 6:00 PM

click to enlarge Bruce Penhall's young son died while working on the 10 last night. - @CONNORPENHALL VIA TWITTER
  • @connorpenhall via Twitter
  • Bruce Penhall's young son died while working on the 10 last night.
Updated after the jump: Caltrans responds, and the ghost of Penhall expresses unhappiness with his job.

Originally posted at 8:30 a.m.

The victim of a late-night crash on the 10 West has been identified as 21-year-old Connor Penhall, a Caltrans subcontractor and the son of racer-turned-actor Bruce Penhall.

KNX news radio reports that the famous dad rushed to the scene of the accident last night to identify his son and say goodbye. As for the driver of the Toyota Rav4 that hit young Penhall: California Highway Patrol officials tell City News Service that 37-year-old Tatsuhiko Sakamoto, who was apparently drunk, barreled through a coned- and signed-off area of the 10 West while Caltrans was doing construction work.
click to enlarge Ironically, Bruce Penhall played a California Highway Patrolman in the '90s TV show "CHiPs."
  • Ironically, Bruce Penhall played a California Highway Patrolman in the '90s TV show "CHiPs."
Penhall was reportedly operating a concrete saw when he was hit. Sakamoto was immediately breathalyzed and arrested at the scene for "gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated," "felony DUI" and "driving without a license." (Although his city of residence is listed as Arcadia, Sakamoto only had a Hawaii driver's license, not a California one.) The crash occurred at about 11:45 p.m. yesterday, just 45 minutes after the stretch of freeway was closed off for the night. Like his dad -- who was the World Speedway Champion for motorcycle racing in 1981 and 1982 -- 21-year-old Penhall has apparently done some racing of his own. Here he is at the Baja 500 in 2009 (a race for trucks, not motorcycles): One day before he died, Penhall Tweeted: "Nothing worse then hear a loud smack by a car, and a dog screaming... :(" The celebrity son grew up in Corona; his Facebook profile says he went to Lee Pollard High School. And his photos are mostly of him behind the wheel, including this one of him "messin" around on a motorcycle, out in the dusty Mojave Desert town of Adelanto:
Under-construction stretches of L.A. freeways at night have proven a dangerous place for both drivers and road workers. Last summer, a young war vet died after crashing his motorcycle into an excavator -- on this very same stretch of the 10 in Baldwin Park. UP NEXT: Caltrans officials say there's nothing more they could have done to prevent this accident. Also, some of Penhall's past commentary on his construction job shows he may have wanted out.

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