Los Angeles police investigators believe speed and driver impairment were factors in a crash that left a 21-year-old man dead and the car he was driving split in half in Canoga Park early Tuesday morning.
The crash occurred about 2:13 a.m. as a 2001 Honda Accord was traveling eastbound on Sherman Way near the intersection of De Soto Avenue.
“The vehicle was traveling at a very high rate of speed. Probably faster than what we typically see on the freeways,” Los Angeles Police Department Detective Bill Bustos said.
Bustos initially said he didn't know if impairment was a factor but said he had seen an "empty alcohol can" at the scene. Police later said in a news release that "excessive speed and driver impairment contributed to the collision."
The driver, identified as 21-year-old Steven Rodriguez of Chatsworth, lost control, hitting a fire hydrant and crashing into two buildings.
“The impact was so hard that the fire hydrant went inside one of the buildings,” Bustos said.
The vehicle came apart as a result of the crash and the driver was killed, Bustos said. The hydrant sprayed water into the air, and car parts were left scattered across the pavement.
"It was like a giant river of ... car parts floating by," said witness Angel Cerda. "Half of the car was on one side of the street, and the other half was on the other side of the street. The man was still in the car, sitting down, his seatbelt on. ... It was a complete mess."
No other vehicles were involved in the crash and no passengers were inside the Honda.
Surveillance video captured the crash, and Cerda recorded cellphone video after coming upon the scene.
Friends of the victim said he was heading home to his mom's house at the time of the crash.
The fatal crash came only two weeks after Rodriguez's 21st birthday, according to a GoFundMe page set up to raise funds for his mother. Alex Robles, Rodriguez's close friend since childhood who created the page, said he was a loving person who was "always smiling and always happy."
Robles told KTLA his heart dropped when he heard the news.
“What made more cry even more — his mom told me, ‘Last night at almost 3 a.m. I heard the door open and footsteps, but no one walked into the room,' ” Robles said. "I called my mom and…the first thing I said was, ‘I love you, mom.’ You never know when the last time you could see your mom is.”
Knowing that Rodriguez may have contributed to his own death by driving under the influence of alcohol only made the pain deeper, Robles added.
“If he was, I’m kind of upset that he was driving and drinking," he said. "Of course.”