Petaluma teen paralyzed in Lake Tahoe diving accident dies in Highway 101 crash

  • Emergency crews investigate a car crash on Highway 101 southbound, just south of Redwood Landfill at around 7:45 PM on Sunday, Aug. 07, 2011, in Novato, Calif. A tree in the foreground, right, is missing bark. (IJ photo/Frankie Frost)

The family, sat stunned and grief-stricken, in front of their west Petaluma home Monday as well-wishers stopped by to offer condolences.

The Cox-McGowan family, already struggling to deal with 19-year-old Danny Cox's catastrophic spinal injury a year ago, was dealt another tragic blow Sunday evening when the young man died in a single-vehicle crash on Highway 101.

"He was so kind, so kind to people," said his mother, Maureen McGowan, tears flowing as others tried to console her. "He was so giving."

Cox died when the 2005 Dodge Magnum wagon he was driving struck a tree along the freeway about 5:45 p.m. Sunday.

He was heading south on the highway north of Novato when the vehicle left the road and hit an oak tree near Olompali State Park. He was alone in the car.

There were no skid marks to suggest he'd been trying to brake prior to the collision, said CHP Officer Chris Rardin. Witnesses told the CHP he'd been travelling between 60-70 mph when he hit the tree.

The impact destroyed the vehicle and scattered debris about 300 feet.

Cox had gone out for a drive, his mother said, something that he enjoyed doing since he'd passed his driver's test on July 26. The car, which he had for several months before his injury, had been retrofitted with a special device he slid his hand into so he could maneuver the car.

McGowan thought maybe her son lost control of the car, not being experienced at highway speeds with his physical limitations or the new driving equipment.

"Maybe he overcorrected or undercorrected," she said, leaning against a porch railing.

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