BARSTOW • Whether he was off-road racing, fishing, playing the guitar, working, or just spending time with family and friends, people who knew 22-year-old Justin Ervin say he was always busy and always surrounded by people.

"This kid would pack so much into a week," his mother Kathy Ervin said. "He packed so much into a short life."

Justin died Sunday night, when his Subaru STI rearended a semi truck as he was merging from Interstate 40 onto the southbound Interstate 15 in Barstow. He had spent the day with his uncle in Grandview working on a Corvette, family members said Tuesday. They think Justin may have headed into town to pick up some supplies from Wal-Mart afterwards, but no one knows for sure.

Initial reports from the California Highway Patrol stated that Justin was wearing a seatbelt and alcohol did not appear to be a factor. Officer Taj Johnson said Wednesday that officers were still interviewing people who had been with Justin in his last 24 hours as part of the crash investigation.

"Right now, we really don't know what happened," he said.

Within a few hours after the crash, about 30 people had shown up at the Ervin family's house to offer their support, James said. The next day, Kathy estimated that 200 people came through the house, and the refrigerator was full of their gifts, a testament to the large circle of friends surrounding Justin and his family.

Justin and his four siblings were raised in Hodge, between Barstow and Helendale, on the same property where James was raised and where the Ervin family has lived for 50 years. As well as James' mother Ofelia, who still lives in her own house on the property, and the kids and the uncles, aunts and cousins who would often come to visit, James said the house was frequently full of Justin's friends, who would come over to hang out or to work on cars, motorcycles and dune buggies in James' small shop.

"I felt younger hanging around with those guys," James said.

Likewise, Justin became friends over the years with many of his father's off-roading buddies. Off-road racing was an enthusiasm that father and son shared. James recalls that he was with Justin, then 10 or 11 years old, at the S.C.O.R.E. (Southern California Off-Road Enthusiasts) Firecracker 250 off-road race, where James' team took sixth place when Justin was bowled over by famous off-road racing driver Ivan "Ironman" Stewart, who was running to watch his own son finish a race.

"He picked up Justin, and Justin said 'Will you sign my shirt?' and he did," James said.

From the time he was a kid, Justin's family remembered him as a fearless adventurer who was always up to try a new challenge, whether it was BMX biking, motorcycle racing or deep sea fishing.

Father and son both worked at the Marine Corps Logistics Base, where Justin was a heavy equipment mechanic. He attended Barstow High School through October 2003, but elected to be home-taught for the last two years of high school, graduating from the Excelsior Education Center charter school in May of 2005.

Family members said Justin was planning to marry his girlfriend of about five years and start a family in Barstow.

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(760) 256-4123 or asewell@desertdispatch.com