Willis Still In Critical Condition After Car Accident

As reported by The San Diego Tribune

SAN DIEGO – A famed professional surfer from Solana Beach remained hospitalized in critical condition Tuesday, four days after the car he was driving crashed off a Del Mar road, killing his 24-year-old passenger.

Milton Willis, 51, was speeding and may have been drunk when he ran a stop sign in a Toyota Avalon at Coast Boulevard and 20th Street about 1:40 a.m. Friday, according to sheriff’s traffic Sgt. Randy Webb.

The northbound sedan, which was traveling about 65 mph in a 25-mph zone, bottomed out in a dip in the pavement, skidded off the western side of the roadway, hit a parked car and smashed into a large palm tree. The sedan then spun around and crashed into a vehicle parked in a driveway, Webb said.

Willis’ passenger and the owner of the Avalon, Bradley Dillahunty of Laguna Niguel, died at the scene.

Emergency crews found Willis partially ejected out of the car’s rear window. He remains in critical condition at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, said Lisa Ohmstede, a spokeswoman for the medical center.

Preliminary evidence at the scene of the fatal wreck – including a strong odor of alcohol – suggested that drinking was a “major” causative factor, according to Webb.

Just prior to the accident, Dillahunty, who worked as a musician, had been at Jimmy O’s, a sports bar-restaurant on West 15th Street in Del Mar, the sergeant said.

Willis – who apparently had borrowed Dillahunty’s car – picked up the younger man at the nightspot around closing time. The sedan careened off the upscale coastal city’s main north-south thoroughfare about a half-mile away.

The exact nature of the relationship between Willis and Dillahunty was unclear.

“I’m assuming they were friends,” Webb said.

The sergeant declined to say where the older man spent the hours leading up to the accident.

Willis has not been arrested, both because of the severity of his injuries and the fact that investigators are awaiting the results of toxicology tests that will determine his blood-alcohol level at the time of the crash, the sergeant said. Those screenings will likely take several weeks to complete.

Willis, who runs a North County surf school with his identical-twin brother, Michael, is famed for plying some of the world’s largest waves and is credited as a developer of “tow-in surfing,” in which a surfer is pulled onto a very large breaker by a cord attached to a personal watercraft or helicopter.

The Willis brothers also established the first surfing class in a U.S. public high school in 1972 and recently co-authored a book of philosophical essays inspired by their surfing careers.