The Orange County Register broke the news late last night that someone had been killed in a collision with a bicyclist on the popular Santa Ana River Trail yesterday evening.
The collision occurred on the trail around 6 pm just north of Atlanta Avenue; the victim was taken to Western Medical Center in Santa Ana, where he died an hour later. Initial reports were unclear whether the victim was another cyclist or a pedestrian.
This morning, a reliable anonymous source in a position to know wrote to clear up the confusion.
58-year-old pedestrian Johnathan Charles Coontz was struck and killed by a cyclist on the Santa Ana river trail in Huntington Beach yesterday evening. He was a homeless guy, the type who collect recyclables, and he usually had a bike that he used for transportation and collecting cans, so my guess (just guessin’ here) is that at the time of the collision, maybe he was pushing a heavily laden bike, either while scavenging, or while returning to his encampment.
Homeless camp out in the clumps of thick shrubbery along this stretch of path. It’s not a place I ride, but not because of the homeless, who generally keep to themselves. It’s just dark, you need really bright lights and you need to look out for drunks crossing the path.
Still hoping to find out anything about the cyclist.
There was some initial confusion about jurisdiction, but CHP will be the investigating agency.
It’s rare that a collision with a bike results in death, but as this incident shows, it can happen — and has happened before — usually involving a pedestrian, through fatal collisions with other cyclists have occurred, as well.
The statistic I’ve heard is that roughly six people are killed each year nationwide as a result of collisions with bicycles; however, I don’t know where that stat came from or how valid it may be.
But it’s a reminder to ride carefully in areas where other people may be present. I’ve seen cyclists plow through crosswalks crowded with pedestrians, forcing people to dodge them to avoid being knocked down.
And you don’t want to be the one who has to live with something like this for the rest of your life. Which is not to suggest the cyclist is at fault in this collision; we have no way of knowing yet what happened in this case.
As this recent helmet cam video from Michael Eisenberg clearly shows, it’s not always the cyclist’s fault — in fact, he reports he likely would have hit the man if he hadn’t he slowed down to 8 mph in anticipation of pedestrians in the area.
Update: The Register confirms the identity of the victim, though they list his age as 58 — or possibly 52, judging from the headline — rather than 62, and say he was a resident of Costa Mesa.
According to the paper, Coontz was riding north on an Electra Cruiser when he drifted onto the southbound side of the trail, where he collided with another rider. The other cyclist, a 52-year old man from Midway City, was hospitalized, as well.
And let’s not discount the tragedy because he was apparently homeless at the time of his death. Many people have fallen on hard times in this troubled economy, for any number of reasons. Whatever combination of factors may have brought Coontz onto the streets, there are undoubtedly those who loved him, and will miss him.
Update 2: Koontz’s family and friends remember him as one of the best surfers in Newport Beach in the 1970s.
Please accept my prayers and condolences for Jonathan Coontz, and all his loved ones.