A car that plowed into a tree off Interstate 5 in the San Diego area was so badly wrecked that it was essentially torn in two, killing the Navy service member inside, California Highway Patrol (CHP) officials said Friday morning.
“Upon arrival, it was actually unrecognizable as a car,” said CHP Sgt. Brant Lowry at the scene of the deadly crash off northbound I-5, in Chula Vista south of J Street, on New Year’s Day. “We figured out it’s a Ford, two-door. It was pretty much torn in half.”
The crash was reported just before 7 a.m., but Sgt. Lowry said there are no witnesses.
When officers arrived, they discovered the mangled vehicle -- a Ford Escort ZX2 -- had drifted off the freeway and slammed into a tree. Inside, the driver was dead.
The victim was identified by the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s (ME) office as a black, 21-year-old man who was active duty with the U.S. Navy. He was seated in the car, still wearing his seat belt, and there was no evidence that the man tried to hit his brakes, CHP officials said.
Sgt. Lowry said the crash may have happened overnight, in the earlier hours of New Year’s Day. He said the car was “cold to the touch,” indicating the crashed car had been there a while before someone spotted the wreck and reported it to authorities.
The name of the driver has not yet been released. An autopsy and toxicology report will be conducted by the ME's office.
The deadly crash is under investigation and anyone with information should contact the CHP office at (619) 220-5492. It is unknown, at this point, if alcohol contributed to the collision.