Driver whose body found on LA highway sign was passing on shoulder: officials

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LOS ANGELES – It was a grisly discovery – the body of a young man found in a highway sign after a California highway accident – now, California Highway Patrol officials what they think led to the fatal crash.

Witnesses said they saw a 2004 Ford Fiesta, driven by 20-year-old Richard Pananian, speeding down the 5 Freeway, passing cars on the right shoulder.

Pananian tried to veer left, off the shoulder and around a Ford F-150 traveling 50 mph, when he hit the truck's bumper.  The collision sent Pananian's Fiesta careening up an embankment on the side of the road, flipping multiple times and ejecting him in the process, according to a CHP report obtained by KTLA.

Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics found his body on the ledge of an exit sign, some 20 feet above the road.  CHP officials don't think Pananian was wearing a seat belt, according to the report.  He apparently had a five-point safety harness installed in his car.

It's not known whether or not Pananian was under the influence of drugs or alcohol before the crash.

The driver of the Ford F-150 wasn't hurt in the accident.

Pananian's relatives have started an online fundraising campaign citing "unexpected financial burdens" and the cost of the funeral.

Pananian was born in Burbank, California but comes from an Armenian family of devout Christians.  Just five days before the fatal crash, they sacrificed a lamb as part of a "matag" ceremony to protect Pananian from harm and evil, according to the GoFundMe page.

"In the Armenian culture, sacrifices are done when someone escapes death, as Richards life was once spared."

Family and friends are grieving Pananian's death.  His cousin, Armen Kardashian, who created the GoFundMe account, wrote, "I find it ironic that 5 days after this offering to God, not only did God choose to take this young mans life, but decided to make such a spectacle out of it.  If God works in mysterious ways his way remains a mystery to me and has crushed this family as a whole."