NEWPORT BEACH – The Friday afternoon search for a suspected hit and run driver on the Balboa Penninsula was almost called off before NBPD helicopter pilot and commander, Tim Starn, noticed a struggling swimmer about 400 yards out in the Pacific off the end of the 28th Street jetty.
The fully clothed swimmer – shoes included – was later identified as James A. Peterson, 32, of 1623 Coriander, Unit D, in Costa Mesa. After being rescued by lifeguards, Mr. Peterson also acknowledged being the driver of the hit and run vehicle which reportedly clipped a pedestrian, according to police.
Just after 5pm Friday police responded to the call of a hit and run collision involving a pedestrian that occurred in the 100 block of 30th street. The suspect vehicle was reported as a white Chevy Monte Carlo heading east through the West Oceanfront alley.
Starn arrived on the scene first in the NBPD helicopter, Eagle, and quickly located the suspect Monte Carlo abandoned at 29th Street and the West Oceanfront Boardwalk.
Patrol units were subsequently called in to help with the search for the suspect. Starn also continued his search from the helicopter but, finding no one, was set to clear the call, or leave, said police. That’s when he noticed the swimmer.
According to Sgt. Tom Fischbacher, Starn realized the swimmer was relatively far off-shore and not in a normal swimming area. He also wasn’t doing well and went under several times.
Starn radioed Newport Beach Lifeguards who already had a boat in the area and were able to pull the suspect out of the water.
Peterson was taken to Hoag Presbyterian hospital, treated and later arrested by Newport Beach police for suspected 23153(a) – Felony DUI with injury.