Driver killed, child hurt after hitting downed tree on rural highway

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SAN DIEGO — A man died and a 7-year-old girl was airlifted to the hospital Tuesday morning when their SUV slammed into a large oak tree that had fallen onto a rural San Diego County highway.

The crash happened around 6 a.m. on state Route 79 in Oak Grove, a community in the rural northeast corner of the county.

A man driving an SUV was headed north on the highway but, for an unknown reason, didn’t spot the tree lying across both lanes of the highway, California Highway Patrol said. The SUV hit the oak tree “at full highway speed,” and was left lodged under the trunk.

When officers arrived, they found the man and a 7-year-old girl trapped in the SUV. Firefighters cut the two out of the vehicle and rushed the girl to a helicopter, which airlifted her to Rady Children’s Hospital. She was expected to survive her injuries, CHP said.

Paramedics tried to save the man’s life, but he was unresponsive when they found him and ultimately pronounced dead at the scene.

Investigators determined that neither of the victims had been wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash.

Both lanes of the highway were shut down for several hours starting just before 7 a.m.

Investigators did not immediately find evidence that drugs or alcohol were a factor in the crash, according to CHP.

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