Last April, Adam Rybicki was critically injured in a collision with an alleged underage drunk driver while riding with friends in Torrance.
The collision occurred early on Sunday morning as a car driven by Jaclyn Andrea Garcia drove head first towards the cyclists, then suddenly jerked back to strike Rybicki and another rider as they swerved to avoid her. Despite her age and the early hour, 19-year old Garcia reportedly had a blood alcohol level nearly twice the legal limit.
Nearly three months later, Adam remains in a rehab facility, struggling to communicate using a white board; he still has both a feeding tube and a tracheotomy tube installed. Reportedly, he’s making good progress, though he has a very long way to go.
The driver who is charged with putting him there is facing a preliminary setting hearing on Wednesday, July 27th in Department 5 of the Inglewood Courthouse, Case #YA81126; she’s charge with two counts of DUI with injury, and two counts DUI with BAC of .08 and injury.
The case has been transferred to Inglewood after the Supervising Judge in Torrance recused all the judges in that courthouse because Garcia’s mother works as a court reporter there. Cyclists who knew Rybicki and were on the ride are worried that, even in another courthouse, Garcia could receive favorable treatment because of her mother’s relationship with local judges and prosecutors.
As a result, they want to get the story out about what really happened that tragic Sunday, and have sent me, and several prominent area reporters and columnists, the following, absolutely chilling, first person account of the collision.
Along with a signed petition calling for justice for Adam.
At 7:15 AM on April 3, 2011, the group of riders known as “The Doctors’ Ride” was headed downhill on Camino de Encanto.
Minutes earlier they left the congregation point near the fountain at Malaga Cove Plaza, with ten riders headed north toward Marina Del Rey. They use Camino De Encanto to avoid traffic on Palos Verdes Boulevard.
As the road curved slightly to the right at the bottom of the steep part, an oncoming car came into view. The silver Kia driven by Jaclyn Andrea Garcia was already in the middle of the road and drifting into the path of oncoming bikes.
MB said to JT, “Watch the car.”
Incredibly and inexplicably, the car kept coming further into the cyclists’ lane. MB and JT at the front veered right and hit their brakes, skidding on the pavement, but they had no place to go. DC, behind MB, braked so hard he kicked up his back wheel, barely keeping control. Adam, to his left, apparently saw an opening to go left around the car and headed that way. KW and NG1 behind braked hard but stayed right. Behind them, SH and NG2 also braked hard, skidding. Well back, DS and DL watched the horror unfold.
At the front, MB yelped a primal scream as he braced for impact. JT, an accomplished motorcycle rider, tried to keep control and find a way out. At the last second, Garcia jerked her vehicle back to the proper side sparing MB his expected impact. JT smashed his left handlebar into the left front fender and vaulted up, shearing off the driver’s side mirror and scraping his shorts on the left rear door handle. He doesn’t recall hitting the ground but popped up with a smashed left hand and upper leg abrasions from the scrape with the mirror and door handle.
Adam was not as fortunate. His chosen escape was abruptly cut off with no time to react. He struck the bumper and hood of the Kia just to the driver’s side of center. His carbon fiber bike frame buckled and shattered from the impact, the only thing holding it together was the control cables. His right femur also shattered from the impact to the hood. He flew into the windshield just to the passenger side of center creating a hole about a foot in diameter and spraying shattered glass into the lap of the girl in the passenger seat. Adam was tossed into the air and landed on the far side of the street, his chest and face-down head on the sidewalk, his pelvis and legs in the gutter. His right leg stuck out at a horrible angle under his left leg; he looked dead.
MB circled back and assessed the situation. The vehicle had stopped back in the proper lane about 10 feet beyond Adam’s body. The engine was still running; he yelled at the driver to shut off the engine and stay in the car. DS, an orthopedic surgeon, noted Adam had a pulse but was not conscious or breathing well; he had to be moved to clear an airway. MB and DS moved Adam so he was laid out in the gutter face up. He began moaning. Neighbors emerged from houses to see what the commotion was about. Riders franticly called 911 uncertain what the street name or block was.
Riders quickly ascertained that Adam and JT were the only riders hit, JT far better off than Adam. Minutes seemed like hours as riders awaited help. A neighbor produced a blanket to cover Adam against the morning chill. DS tended to Adam imploring him to hang on.
Five girls gradually emerged from the vehicle and wandered to the curb to sit away from the cyclists. One stated within earshot of KW that this was bullshit; she had to get to work. KW, uncertain if this was the driver, told this girl she wasn’t going anywhere, this was a serious accident and she should calm down and stay put. Jaclyn Garcia told the girl to come sit down with her.
After about five minutes, the first police appeared on scene. Minutes later, paramedics showed up and took over first aid from DS. Others were trying to contact Adam’s wife, Barbara, by calling information. JT had someone call his wife, also. JT insisted paramedics tend to Adam first. Ambulance arrived on scene, the paramedics cut off Adam’s jersey, a nearly new Bike Tour of Colorado jersey he bought last June. In the back of the jersey was his wallet, his mini pump and his phone. They loaded Adam onto a gurney and hauled him away in the ambulance headed for Harbor UCLA Trauma Center.
The police secured the block with crime scene tape and segregated the car girls from the riders. Everyone except Adam was interviewed over the next hour. Garcia was field-sobriety checked and failed. She was cuffed and stuffed into the back of a cruiser for a trip to Torrance Memorial Medical Center for Blood-alcohol content testing. At age 19, the legal limit is zero. When tested, hers was closer to 0.15.
Adam’s phone and other jersey contents disappeared from the trauma center. It was later determined that someone in South Central LA was using his phone to make international calls. Messages were sent to try to retrieve the phone; there were no responses. After multiple surgeries in the trauma center, his condition was stabilized.
Three-and-a-half months later Adam is conscious, but has severely limited motor ability. He was moved to a sub-acute care center where he receives 24-hour-a-day monitoring. He has been bed-ridden for three months. He has a trach tube, a feeding tube and cannot do anything for himself. He cannot hear or talk. He can respond to written questions with yes and no nods of his head. He has no memories of the crash. He appreciates all visitors and well wishes. We are all hoping that he can eventually recover some semblance of a normal life.
A number of the riders and friends of Adam have circulated a petition. It has been deemed inappropriate for us to send it directly to the DA or the judiciary. We feel that we’d like to put it out there anyway so we are sending to you, the press. We appreciate any public airing this case can get.
A Demand for Justice in the Case of Jaclyn Andrea Garcia
Jaclyn Andrea Garcia was 19. She was a former student athlete at Palos Verdes High, a babysitter and a Jr College Student. She was drunk and driving in south Torrance with four other girls in her Kia mini-SUV. Adam Rybicki was 49. He was a fit, enthusiastic, avid bicyclist, who was very well liked by all who knew him. He was a productive software engineer and, perhaps more importantly, a loyal husband and father. April 3, 2011 brought them together in a horrible, violent collision.
At age 19, the legal limit for Blood Alcohol Content is zero. When tested, JAG’s was closer to 0.15, nearly twice the legal limit for adults. She and friends had purchased alcoholic drinks (illegally) on Saturday night and spent the night drinking at JAG’s boyfriend’s house. How or why they emerged at 7 AM Sunday and decided to pile into JAG’s car is unknown. But by doing so, they sealed Adam’s fate.
JAG drove her car across the centerline into the path of a group of ten cyclists. In the mad scramble to escape her vehicle, two cyclists were struck. Adam was by far the worst casualty. He was struck head on with a closing speed of nearly 55 mph.
Adam’s progress is slow. He still cannot hear. He is still on a feeding tube and a trach tube for breathing. He cannot speak. He cannot do anything for himself. Nobody knows if he will ever recover those abilities we all take for granted.
Some feel that the District Attorney should tie JAG’s fate to Adam’s; as long as he’s in his ‘prison’, she should stay in the state’s prison. That is probably not within the law and it is not going to happen. But it would be a travesty if she walked just because of her youth and sympathy for her family. Adam Rybicki has no ‘inside’ connections. District Attorneys, as we have seen in the Colorado case (see http://velonews.competitor.com/2011/06/news/the-explainer-a-follow-up-to-the-sleepy-investment-banker_177721), can make decisions on how to prosecute. They have autonomy to make deals in criminal court that determine the defendant’s destiny. They have no say in Adam Rybicki’s destiny.
We will see what happens in this criminal proceeding; it bears watching and those prosecuting and/or dealing should be and will be accountable – no under-the-table or behind-closed-doors deals should be allowed. This is no longer a juvenile offender – no more sealed verdicts. Justice is supposed to be blind and beyond reproach .
Drunk driving is a crime. Offenders are to be cited and prosecuted. Bicyclists constitute some of the most vulnerable users of the roadways. They are entitled to use the roadways. Accidents happen. This was not an accident; this was a crime. By illegally drinking and driving, Jaclyn Andrea Garcia became a criminal. She should be properly prosecuted and should be properly penalized. Any parent can appreciate wanting to spare a child distress and life disruption due to penalties. But take a look at Adam Rybicki’s life and family. They did not sign up for this and did nothing to deserve it. We are all hoping that Adam can eventually recover some semblance of a normal life.
We, the undersigned, implore the District Attorney and Judge to consider the facts of the case and impose the maximum possible sentence for these crimes.
Richard Lull Javier Murphy Richard Shrader Cynthia Tenhouse Davis Jensen David Perez Dave LaForest Raymond Eastwood William Klahr Paul and Kelley Swanno Ed Taylor Benjamin Konell James K Yokotake John Thomson John Reidy Judith Elliot Gus and Gail Ohlsson H. Marq Prince William Height Marcus Edwardes Michael C Barr Susan Kessler Robert Cedergreen Jeff Dykzeul Kathy Risley Jon Rosen Kathy NelsonIf the authors of this petition don’t mind, they can add one more name to this list. Mine. Ted Rogers, BikingInLA