Kenneisha Hawkins-Dale, 22, who was raised in Oakland, was traveling back from visiting her husband and brother at a state prison in Vacaville when her car was struck by the tree around 1:40 p.m. March 9.
She was alone in her 1997 Toyota Camry, wearing her seat belt and driving the speed limit in the slow lane of westbound Interstate 80 just east of Cherry Glen Road at the time of the crash, according to a spokesman from the California Highway Patrol.
As she drove by, the tree came crashing down on her car. The crushing weight of the trunk and limbs pushed the roof of the car down onto her, according to the CHP. The impact was so intense that the tree knocked the windshield out of the car and onto the freeway, authorities said. She died after suffering severe head trauma.
Her cousin, Jeanette Bartholomew, said the victim's great-grandmother was in a separate vehicle ahead of her and had seen the tree seconds before it fell.
A CHP spokesman said the agency is still investigating land records to see who owns the toppled tree. It is unclear whether Caltrans or one of two possible landowners is responsible, authorities said.
Bartholomew said her cousin was trying to return to school to pass her high school equivalency exam and go into a career in working with children or the deaf. Her family is now trying to raise enough money to hold a memorial service and bury the woman. To help, donate to account No. 325024452160 at any Bank of America branch or at www.gofundme.com/7mskuw.
Follow Kristin J. Bender at Twitter.com/kjbender.