California Highway Patrol Sgt. Becky Lynch said investigators believe alcohol and excessive speed may be to blame for the crash.
Funke, a first-responder, said Velasquez’s body was discovered by friends with whom he reportedly had been drinking earlier that night in the George’s Gap area of the Angeles National Forest, an isolated spot near Clear Creek.
“They said they were up at George’s Gap drinking, just being social, and the driver of the vehicle decided he wanted to go home. They tried to talk him out of driving, but to no avail,” Funke said. “About 35 or 40 minutes later, [the friends] were driving down and came upon [Velasquez’s] car embedded in the side of a hill. He had run head-on into a tree, and that’s how we found him.”
Funke said he did not see any obvious signs that Velasquez had applied his brakes prior to the crash.
An autopsy and blood-alcohol test is pending this weekend.
Angeles Crest Highway was closed above La Cañada for nearly 17 months to repair massive road washouts and other damage caused by the August 2009 Station fire and subsequent rainstorms.
The CHP has intensified traffic enforcement efforts along the roadway since its reopening on June 3.
—Andrew Shortall contributed to this story.