A fatal crash on Highway 101 west of Goleta early Monday occurred when the driver shot himself, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department announced late Monday night.
“A male subject in his late 50s died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound while driving on the 101 freeway…” said sheriff’s Sgt. Mark Williams in a press release. “The name of the decedent is being withheld at this time due to the sensitive nature of this tragic incident.”
Throughout the day Monday, the department remained tight-lipped about the circumstances involved in the incident, which occurred about 7:45 a.m. in the southbound lanes, a half mile north of Winchester Canyon Road.
Normally the California Highway Patrol is responsible for accidents on the freeway, but sheriff’s personnel quickly took charge of the investigation.
Williams confirmed earlier in the day that one person died in the dark-colored Honda Pilot, which slammed into a large highway sign and came to rest about 15 feet up an embankment.
But Williams said at the time that he could not provide further details about the incident, which shut down the slow lane in the vicinity for several hours, backing up southbound traffic for about a mile.
The vehicle sustained significant front-end damage — apparently from impact with a large sign post — but otherwise seemed relatively unscathed.
After the vehicle was pulled down to the roadway by a tow truck, sheriff’s investigators spent more than an hour examining it and collecting evidence.
CHP officers and sheriff’s deputies, who otherwise would not comment, said the site had been declared a “crime scene,” and restricted media access. A forensics van was called to the scene to assist with the probe.
By noon, nearly five hours after the crash, the wreckage was gone and lane closures eliminated, but several sheriff’s personnel remained on scene, combing the hillside for evidence and using a metal detector.