PLEASANTON -- As the elderly driver of a car that veered off Interstate 680 and crashed into a tree was released from the hospital Friday, a family friend described her husband, who was killed in the crash, as a generous family man who "was a volunteer whenever and wherever he could avail himself."

Boyd Fowler, 67, a father of six grown children and Sunday school teacher at a Hayward Mormon church, was in the passenger seat of the 2000 Honda CR-V just before 5:30 p.m. Wednesday when for unknown reasons, the vehicle careened off the right side of the road and down an embankment at about 65 mph, CHP Officer John Bautista said. Fowler's wife, 74-year-old Ann Patterson Fowler was driving at the time.

After plummeting down the hill just south of Bernal Avenue, the car crashed into a large tree at the bottom of the embankment. According to Bautista, the force of the crash was so great that officers responding to the scene found the car split in two pieces.

"It was pretty demolished," Bautista said. "You have to get going at a pretty good rate of speed to do that. Sixty-five (mph) could be enough, depending on the trajectory of the vehicle as it went down the embankment."

Officers found Boyd Fowler dead at the scene and his wife unresponsive. A few minutes after the officers arrived, Ann Fowler awoke, was extracted from the vehicle and taken to the hospital with what CHP described as major injuries.

Investigators could not immediately conclude what caused her to veer off the road, and were exploring the possibility that she suffered a medical impairment behind the wheel, Bautista said. The CHP ruled out drugs and alcohol as possible factors in the crash.

"Ann does not know exactly what happened, nor why, or how," said Josephine Campbell, a Hayward resident and friend of 20 years, who visited her at the hospital and spoke with her about the incident. "She remembers driving, and suddenly finding herself at the bottom of a hill in a ditch."

Campbell said Fowler vaguely recalls the moment she was found by the officers, who were not immediately sure of her condition.

"She was not conscious, however she heard people saying 'She's dead,'" Campbell said. "She eventually woke up and said, 'I'm not dead!'"

Fowler was treated in the hospital for severe bruising and broken ribs, and continues to recover despite being in great pain, Campbell said. She is in shock about what happened to her husband, whom she had been married to for five years.

The couple were on their way to a nearby mall to have lunch and change their cellphone plans, Campbell said.

The Fowlers managed the local chapter of the Mormon Food Bank, where out-of-work residents can go and shop for free groceries. The endeavor is just one of many ways the Fowlers devoted their life to giving, Campbell said.

"Boyd and Ann were so cute together, always holding hands and smiling," Campbell said. "Those two people are the most kind, caring people I ever met."

Contact Erin Ivie at eivie@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/erin_ivie.