On Aug. 16, Hollywood plastic surgeon Dr. Frank Ryan was enjoying a moment of bliss during a rare day off in Malibu. Just after 4 p.m., Ryan posted a photo on his Twitter account of his border collie Jill “surveying the view from atop the sand dune.”
A mere 20 minutes later, the California Highway Patrol received a report that Ryan’s jeep had careened off the Pacific Coast Highway and crashed against the rocky embankment below, killing the doctor responsible for performing Heidi Montag‘s extreme plastic-surgery makeover last November. “Dr. Frank Ryan was one of the most incredible people. He truly cared about every patient,” Montag tells PEOPLE.
But while close friends describe Ryan, 50, as “in control” and “cautious,” there’s speculation that the surgeon to the stars may have been tweeting or texting behind the wheel. “Are we looking into texting? Yes, but we are also looking at other elements that could have caused the collision,” says CHP officer Steven Reid, adding that a toxicology report won’t be completed for up to eight weeks.
Friends don’t buy it. “He swore up and down he never texted when he drove. He would wait till he was at a light and use those magic fingers,” says longtime pal Michael Buffer of Ryan, who grew up an only child in Ohio before moving to L.A. in the ’80s to pursue plastic surgery. Though he racked up a celebrity client list that included Melissa Rivers and Gene Simmons, Ryan was most proud of his 26-acre Bony Pony Ranch in Malibu, which served as home base for his charity work with underprivileged kids. “The ranch is his legacy,” says his friend Dawn Furdiga, an event producer. “He just wanted to give back.”