Former Boston Legal star Justin Mentell may have fallen asleep at the wheel of his Jeep, just seconds before his vehicle plunged down an embankment and crashed into two trees near Madison, Wisconsin on Monday, killing the young actor, police told RadarOnline.com Tuesday.
“His mother believes that he may have fallen asleep at the wheel just prior to the accident," Iowa County Sheriff's Dept. Sgt. Daniel Carey told RadarOnline.com exclusively.
“We don’t believe that alcohol was a factor in the incident. There was no evidence of that here," Carey said. “It is possible that Mr. Mentell fell asleep at the wheel, as his mother told us that he liked to take long drives on his own and the area he crashed was pretty secluded. There was some snow lying on the surrounding areas, but the road conditions were clear and dry, so, they would not have been a contributing factor either.
“The coroner will be doing the usual blood tests to see if there were any drugs in his system," Carey said, "but at this point we are just treating it as a tragic accident."
The official police report revealed that Mentell was not wearing his seatbelt when the car plunged off the embankment, and struck the trees on Moscow Road outside the town of Moscow in Iowa County, Wisconsin.
Although the airbag was deployed, Mentell was ejected from the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene.
"He will be greatly missed. He had so much to live for,” his close friend and neighbor of eleven years Sharon Yap told RadarOnline.com. She remembers Mentell as a kind person who was also great around kids.
“It’s very tragic. He was a very sweet and lighthearted person. He loves kids. I have two little boys here and he loved to paint with them. He loved abstract art.”
Mentell left behind his beloved German Shepard dog Jermaine, his mother Alicia, and a girlfriend who lives in California who was scheduled to visit him shortly.
“Alicia is absolutely devastated,” Yap said. “This was her only son.” Yap expects the funeral service to happen in Texas, where the actor is from, over the weekend.
His latest film was the family friendly Disney movie, G-Force. Other projects the actor had been involved in during his acting career included Palo Alto, ’77, Roll Bounce, At the Still Point, and Gothan, IL.
As well as being a talented actor, Mentell was also a promising speed skater during his high school days in Waukegan, placing third in the Junior Olympics and later becoming a member of the U.S. Speedskating’s Junior National speed skating long track team.
He was also an accomplished musician, playing the drums in college.
Mentell was an avid traveler, having been to 25 countries in his prematurely-cut short life, according to imdb.com.
He was also an intellectual free spirit, evidenced by a quote he once gave, according to the Web site: "Being happy today isn't the same as being happy was in the 40s or 50s. Today's society has distorted what happiness is, making it more of a band wagon thing driven by money, materialism, or who has accomplished more of this or that.
"Being happy isn't about accomplishing the most," he said. "It's knowing that with anything you do no matter how big or small, you changed someone's life. Their thoughts, ideas or beliefs, enabling them to see through the grim fog that today's society has evolved into and finding the real purpose of life."