A DUI suspect who was running from police nearly fell two stories at South Coast Plaza before officers detained him and possibly saved his life, authorities said.

Costa Mesa police said Francisco Novela, 37, of Santa Ana crashed his 1972 Ford Ranger truck into a palm tree near the Segerstrom Center for the Arts and fled the scene around 10 p.m. Friday.

After a foot pursuit west over the Bristol Street bridge and into South Coast Plaza, Novela was preparing to jump over a four-foot railing near the Claim Jumper restaurant, authorities said. Unbeknownst to Novela, on the other side of the railing was a two-story drop onto concrete.

Officers grabbed him before he could hop the barrier, police said Monday.

"Familiar with the surrounding area, both officers expedited their foot chase after Novela, determined to ensure he could not make it over the railing and risk imminent serious injury or possible death," said Lt. Greg Scott in a news release.

Novela was taken into custody and questioned. He admitted to fleeing from his crashed truck, being on parole and having a prior drunk-driving arrest, Scott said.

Novela sustained minor injuries to his face in the crash. He was charged with driving under the influence and misdemeanor hit-and-run.

—Bradley Zint

Twitter: @bradleyzint