The victim of a fiery Thursday night crash that closed Bohemian Highway in Camp Meeker has been identified as Ernest James Homen Leo, a Monte Rio resident.
Homen Leo, 20, died at the scene of the 9:15 p.m. crash, in which he lost control of his truck on northbound Bohemian Highway, struck a large redwood tree and tumbled down an embankment before bursting into flames.
The CHP said Friday it appeared Homen Leo was driving too fast when he lost control of his 1998 Dodge Dakota.
Though badly burned, authorities were able to identify him and notify family members in the hours after his death.
The highway was closed for 90 minutes following the crash.
The driver of a pickup was killed when the truck left Bohemian Highway, hit a redwood tree, crashed down an embankment and ultimately burst into flames in the parking lot of a campground off of the west Sonoma County highway.
The crash occurred about 9:15 p.m. and closed the highway in both directions at the Alliance Redwoods camp, described as a Christian conference camp, east of Camp Meeker.
CHP and fire officials said the highway would be closed for most of the night and well into the morning as the coroner and investigators continued to work at the crash scene.
Neither the identity nor gender of the driver was available.
Campers, meanwhile, were left to deal with the devastating crash that included a booming explosion.
"Black smoke went all the way to the top of the trees," said 16-year-old camp counselor Chad Roman, as the frame of the fire-gutted pickup rested with its front-end smashed atop a trailer in the parking lot.
Witnesses said the car left the highway and crashed into a 70-foot tall redwood tree, toppling it across power lines. The truck then plunged down a 30-40 foot embankment and the front end smashed into the dirt and partially hit a trailer.
The fire started immediately, and campers rushed to the truck with fire extinguishers. But there was a huge explosion and the truck, with the driver inside, became totally engulfed in flames, witnesses said.
"It happened so fast, they couldn't do anything," Capt. Greg Martin of the Sonoma County Fire Department said.
"It was huge," said David Corning, 21, a camp counselor. He said he came up behind the truck after the crash and saw people running to it with fire extinguishers. Then, he said, he heard an explosion.
When fire and emergency crews arrived, the driver was pronounced dead and dispatched air and ambulance crews were called back.
The tree fell atop power lines, but power remained on at the camping area. PG&E crews were dispatched to the scene to perform emergency repairs.
Initial reports said the downed power lines caused a brief grass fire. It was not clear if that was also the cause of the fire that burned the truck.
-- Julie Johnson