A 19-year-old Petaluma man was killed Sunday afternoon in a single-car crash on southbound Highway 101 just north of Novato, authorities said.
The man’s identity is being withheld while authorities attempt to reach family members, the California Highway Patrol said.
The man was behind the wheel of a 2005 Dodge Magnum so badly damaged when it struck an oak tree that first responders could not recognize what kind of car it was, according to Battalion Chief Mike Hughes.
The accident occurred at 5:35 p.m. about three-quarters of a mile south of the Redwood Landfill flyover and north of , Hughes said. CHP Officer Chris Rardin said the man was driving at 60-70 mph when it drifted to the right for unknown reasons and left the roadway, striking the tree.
The vehicle came to rest about 10 feet from the highway in a ditch, Hughes said.
Hughes said the wreck was reported as a possible fire and the need for an extrication. An off-duty sheriff’s deputy was among the first at the scene, and an off-duty ambulance crew stopped to help as well, Hughes said.
Fire crews found the vehicle upside down with the engine smoking from the impact, but there was no fire. At first rescuers only had access to the lower part of the man’s body and could not tell if he was still alive, Hughes said.
“It took us about 25 minutes to gain access to the patient’s upper torso so we could confirm whether he was still alive or not,” Hughes said. “He had so many injuries. Once we got a good look at him, we realized there was no hope.”
Rardin said deputies are investigating the crash but that there were no tire friction marks as the Dodge left the roadway.
The crash backed up traffic toward Petaluma as one lane was closed for about 45 minutes, Rardin said.
Hughes said the vehicle had a license plate designating that the driver was disabled.
Remnants of the vehicle, including several tires, were found about 300 to 400 feet south of its resting spot and were being run over by other vehicles, Hughes said. Novato fire crews regularly answer calls for vehicle accidents along the row of oak trees on the west side of the highway there.
“We go there quite often, even on that particular tree,” he said.
The location of the crash was about one mile south of a spot where a 20-year-old Petaluma woman who had grown up in Novato in May.