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Johnny Carson's son killed in traffic mishap

MORRO BAY, Calif. -- Talk-show host Johnny Carson's son was killed after his car plunged down a steep embankment along a remote coastal road, authorities said Monday.

Richard Wolcott Carson, 39, of North Hollywood was found dead Friday a few feet from his car. Carson, who was not wearing a seatbelt, had been ejected from his 1991 Nissan Pathfinder after it crashed down the 125-foot embankment.

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The accident apparently occurred while Carson was taking pictures along a paved service road off Highway 1 near Cayucos, a small town north of San Luis Obispo about 215 miles from Los Angeles.

Photography equipment was found above the accident site, California Highway Patrol Officer Russ Johnson said.

Johnson said the area, less than a quarter-mile from the Pacific Ocean, is popular among photographers and artists.

'Everyone at NBC is deeply shocked and saddened by the sudden death of Ricky Carson,' the network said in a statement. 'Our hearts go out to Johnny Carson and the entire family on this tragic loss.'

Carson's vehicle was traveling up to 20 mph when it went over the edge of Cayucos Drive, landing within about 800 feet of Highway 1. It rolled over several times and landed upside down in a concrete-lined culvert.

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An area resident who saw Carson driving around earlier in the day came across the accident scene within minutes after it happened about 6 p.m. Friday, Johnson said. The resident climbed down the incline, felt for a pulse and then drove home to call authorities.

The Coroner's Office said Carson died of severe internal chest injuries.

Cause of the accident was listed as an 'unsafe turning movement.'

The four-wheel drive vehicle went off the edge at a gradual angle, and Johnson said there was nothing to indicate Carson was driving recklessly.

Earlier this month, NBC announced that comedian Jay Leno, 41, would succeed Johnny Carson as host of 'The Tonight Show, an American institution since 1954.

Johnny Carson took over as host on 'Tonight' on Oct. 1, 1962, succeeding Jack Paar and Steve Allen.

Richard was born during Carson's first marriage to Judy Wolson. Carson is now married to Alexis Maas, who met him in 1985 on the beach near his Malibu home.

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