The Cambrian

Alleged bank robber killed in Hwy. 1 motor home crash

The wreckage from Arthur McClay Watkins' 1988 Southwind motor home, which plunged off Highway 1 just south of Ragged Point Resort on Sunday afternoon.
The wreckage from Arthur McClay Watkins' 1988 Southwind motor home, which plunged off Highway 1 just south of Ragged Point Resort on Sunday afternoon. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

A man facing robbery and weapon charges in connection with a November bank robbery died after his motor home left the road and crashed down an embankment just south of Ragged Point over the weekend, authorities confirmed Monday.

According to California Highway Patrol Officer Bill Long, officials are still investigating why a 1988 Southwind motor home driven by Arthur “Clay” Watkins, 55, of Arroyo Grande, left Highway 1 on Sunday afternoon and tumbled approximately 600 feet down a cliff about a half-mile south of Ragged Point.

Watkins was a well-known marriage and family therapist in Arroyo Grande, as well as a past president of the Rotary Club of Arroyo Grande.

Long said officials have interviewed a witness who reportedly observed the incident, but it remained unclear Monday if the crash was intentional.

“That has crossed several people’s minds given the situation, and it hasn’t been counted out, but so far no evidence has come up to lead us in that direction,” Long said.

Watkins’ body was discovered inside the vehicle, still strapped into his seat by a seatbelt, Long said.

Watkins was facing seven felony charges: five counts of robbery, one count of burglary and one count of brandishing a firearm at a police officer.

On Nov. 16, Watkins was arrested in Santa Maria after allegedly robbing the branch of Wells Fargo Bank on the 400 block of E. Main Street while wearing a ski mask and brandishing a handgun, according to the Santa Maria Police Department.

Police said Watkins took an undisclosed amount of money, which he allegedly dropped as he fled the scene. He was apprehended by officers shortly thereafter and booked into Santa Barbara County Jail.

Watkins was scheduled to appear in court for an arraignment Thursday. His court-appointed public defender, David Ogren, did not return a request for comment Monday.

According to Long, a majority of the wreckage of the motor home had been cleared out of the remote hillside Monday afternoon, but some debris remained. He said some of the wreckage is simply not recoverable and will likely remain at the crash site.

It is not known if alcohol or drugs played a factor in the accident.

Long said the San Luis Obispo County coroner  will conduct an autopsy, and a toxicology report will be released soon thereafter.

A video in which Watkins recounts moments from his life was posted to YouTube on Feb. 1. It appears to be taken inside a motor home and was listed as being filmed in Big Sur.

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