A 24-year-old Connecticut native died just after midnight Sunday after falling out of a party bus onto a Southern California freeway.
Christopher Joseph "C.J." Saraceno, whose family lives in Watertown, was ejected from a Ford F-550 party limo bus just north of Universal Studios Boulevard and landed on the Hollywood Freeway at 12:15 a.m. Sunday, according to the the California Highway Patrol.
Saraceno was struck by oncoming traffic and died at the scene.
The incident followed a night of partying at a popular North Hollywood bar and sushi restaurant.
"They all loaded onto the bus and subsequently, while riding down the highway, C.J. was ejected from the vehicle," said his father, Christopher. "From what we were told, by possibly adjusting the radio, the vehicle rocked and C.J. went out the door."
Police are still working to determine how fast the party bus was traveling and how Saraceno ended up falling out.
"The person was ejected from the vehicle – we don't know exactly how," said CHP Officer Chris Baldonado.
Officers found several vehicles parked along the right shoulder of the freeway. The preliminary investigation showed all drivers involved in the collision stopped at the scene.
The owner of the North Hollywood restaurant owner that served Saraceno and his friends late Saturday said he was shocked and saddened to learn the night ended in tragedy.
"Very polite, very nice people," said Mario Mira, owner of Tokyo Delves sushi restaurant. Mira said the group of 20 to 30 friends had been celebrating a birthday. "They were smiling, having a good time."
Mira also noticed something else about the large group: he said they were picked up in a much smaller party bus than the one that initially dropped them off.
"I actually mentioned it to them – they should get a discount for getting a smaller bus," he said. "I noticed people were standing on the limo bus."
Saraceno's father described him as a young man who was passionate about life and his job as a brand content strategist for LA-based creative firm NCLUSIVE.
"He was the president of his high school class," said Saraceno, Sr. "He was a salutatorian making a speech. This is an all-American, apple-pie kid that got robbed from us too soon."
Saraceno graduated from Watertown High School in 2007. He attended Tufts University and is remembered back home for his successful hockey career.
An employee at the firm said Saraceno was celebrating his best friend's birthday the night he died.
Friends and family believe he may have been reaching for the radio when he was ejected.