Man whose SUV careened off Highway 101 during chase died by suicide, CHP says

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Laura Dickinson/

A man whose vehicle careened off Highway 101 and landed on its roof near a San Miguel winery on Monday apparently died by suicide, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tony Cipolla confirmed that the man died in the rollover crash but did not release details about the driver’s identity or cause of death. He said that the CHP is responsible for investigating Monday’s crash and releasing details.

According to CHP Officer Patrick Seebart, a Cal Fire arson investigator initiated a traffic stop on the unidentified driver for speeding in Monterey County.

That led to a car chase, Seebart wrote in an email, adding that Cal Fire followed the driver into San Luis Obispo County.

The silver SUV was traveling south at a “high rate of speed” on Monday afternoon when the crash occurred, CHP Sgt. Steve Warzee told the Tribune on Monday.

Responding CHP units were getting into position to take over the pursuit, but never did because the vehicle crashed for “no reason,” Seebart wrote Tuesday.

The SUV crossed over the median and careened off Highway 101 onto the east shoulder of the roadway, according to the CHP.

The vehicle then tumbled down an embankment and landed on its roof behind Gallo Winery near the 10th Street exit at about 1:30 p.m., Warzee said.

Seebart said it seems the man died by suicide while Cal Fire was following him.

No other vehicles were involved in the crash, the CHP said.

The CHP’s Templeton and San Luis Obispo offices, as well as Cal Fire’s San Luis Obispo County office, said the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office is handling the investigation.

However, Cipolla said his agency’s only involvement with the investigation is through the coroner’s office because the death occurred in SLO County.

He said that the CHP is responsible for investigating what led to Monday’s fatal crash.

Cal Fire’s Monterey County office did not immediately respond Tuesday evening to a request for comment.