Victim of fatal Ukiah crash identified

A man killed in a single-vehicle crash in Mendocino County not reported for nine hours has been identified as Jose Luis Lara Villegas, 19, of Willits.

He died after the driver of a 2006 Ford SUV, Juan Rodriguez Silva, 18, of Willits, Villegas and a second passenger were riding in veered off the road and struck a tree on Uva Drive at Highway 101 about 11:30 p.m. Sunday, the CHP said.

The crash wasn’t reported until 8:30 a.m. Monday. Silva has since told authorities he thought he was on Highway 101 at the time of the crash, said CHP Officer Kylar Adams.

It was raining heavily and Silva was driving at between 55 and 65 mph when he drove off the road at a curve without braking, Adams said.

The vehicle went down an embankment knocking over a sign and some small trees, he said, and was difficult to see from the highway. The survivors told officers they awoke in the wrecked car some time later. They said their cellphones weren’t working. They flagged down a passing driver, borrowed a phone and called a friend who alerted the CHP, Adams said. It remains unclear when Villegas died.

Silva, who suffered major injuries, was still under the influence of alcohol when officers met him at a hospital about 8:30 a.m., Adams said.

He was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. A second passenger, age 20, declined medical treatment. None of the men was wearing seat belts, the CHP said. The incident remains under investigation, Adams said.

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