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Air Force identifies driver killed in head-on collision at Vandenberg Air Force Base

Traffic backs up at Vandenberg Air Force Base's Lompoc Gate during the seven o'clock morning rush. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Vanessa Valentine)

A Santa Maria man killed in a June 15 head-on collision near Vandenberg Air Force base has been identified as 35-year-old Michael Daniel Martinez, according to an Air Force spokeswoman.

The collision occurred on Santa Lucia Canyon Road shortly before 12:30 p.m. when a Jeep that was allegedly stolen, and driven by 29-year-old Michael Culligan, of Lompoc, crossed into the opposite lane and smashed into a blue Lexus driven by Martinez, killing him and seriously injuring his 37-year-old female passenger, who hasn’t been identified.

Martinez was declared dead at the scene, while the woman was flown to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital with major injuries, according to California Highway Patrol Officer Keith Rogers.

Culligan fled the scene on foot, but was apprehended near the Lompoc-Surf train station 1.5 miles away and three hours later after a search by the CHP, Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office and Vandenberg base personnel.

After his capture, Culligan allegedly admitted to using drugs before driving, according to a federal complaint.

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Because the incident occurred on Air Force property, Culligan was charged federally.

Culligan initially appeared at the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building in Los Angeles on June 17 on a felony charge of involuntary manslaughter, but did not enter a plea, according to U.S. Attorney spokesman Ciaran McEvoy.

Culligan’s next appearance is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. on July 1 in Los Angeles federal court. He faces a maximum sentence of eight years in a federal prison if convicted.

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© 2020 Santa Maria Times