Update: Bike rider killed in Newport Beach; DUI driver faces murder charge

For once, the charges fit the crime.

Last night, we linked to news that an Orange County bike rider had been hit by a vehicle Sunday evening. Sadly, the Newport Beach police announced this morning that the victim died later that night.

According to the police report, 30-year old Fountain Valley resident Shaun Eagleson was riding west on East Coast Highway just east of the Los Trancos entrance to Crystal Cove State Park when he was rear-ended by a pickup truck around 5:03 pm.

He was taken to a local trauma center for treatment, where he succumbed to his injuries at around 9:45 Sunday night.

The driver, identified as 23-year old Neil Storm Stephany of Huntington Beach, fled the scene, but was arrested shortly afterwards near the intersection of Newport Center Drive and East Coast Highway. He was taken into custody on charges of including Felony DUI (causing Great Bodily Injury), Hit and Run, Narcotics Possession and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia; bail was initially set at $100,000.

The charges were later amended to include one count of murder, based on Stephany’s previous DUI conviction. According to the press release,

Further investigation revealed that Mr. Stephany has a prior conviction for Driving Under the Influence.  In California, a previous DUI conviction, and the subsequent required alcohol education, is considered an adequate indicator to suggest “implied malice” in subsequent DUI arrests involving the death of another party.  That fact, combined with Mr. Eagelson’s passing, lead Newport Beach Police to change Mr. Stephany’s booking charges to include 187 PC – Murder.  Mr. Stephany is currently being held without bail.

 

Yes, they even revoked his bail.

And they added one more thought that can’t be repeated enough.

Driving Under the Influence is a serious crime, with the potential for tragic and fatal consequences.  It is also completely preventable. The Newport Beach Police Department urges all members of the Community to make responsible decisions and to avoid getting behind the wheel of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, narcotics, or prescription medications.

Newport Beach police are still investigating the case; anyone with information is urged to contact Investigator Eric Little at 949-644-3746 or elittle@nbpd.org.

Nice to find a police department and prosecutors that take traffic crimes seriously for a change. Let’s hope they don’t plead this one away.

This is the 73rd bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the 15th in Orange County; that compares to 12 in the county for all of last year. And it’s at least the eighth fatal bike collision in Newport Beach in just the last five years.

Update: The Orange County Register reports Stephany has an extensive criminal record, with prior convictions for felony assault, possession of a controlled substance and possession with intent to sell, in addition to the prior DUI.

He is also currently facing a charge for domestic violence.

With a background like that, it’s possible that a murder conviction in this case could be his third strike, resulting in life in prison.

Update 2: A fund has been established to help pay funeral costs; in just one day, it’s already raised over half of the $15,000; thanks to Olivia Eagleson and Chris Nguyen for the link. 

Meanwhile, Corona del Mar Today reports that Neil Stephany was formally charged with murder, as well as felony counts of hit and run causing permanent injury or death, and possession of a controlled substance, identified as SUBOXONE sublingual films.

Chris Nguyen also says in his comment that Shaun Eagleson was an avid reader of this site, which makes this one even more personal and heartbreaking for me.

Update 3: The following comment appeared on the original story about the collision on the Corona del Mar website; if true, it raises a lot of very uncomfortable questions. Thanks to Jeffrey Fylling for the tip. 

I think this accident could be prevented and this was the fault of Laguna Beach Police and paramedic. I was following the driver who hit the bicyclist and killed him, from Laguna Canyon in Laguna Beach and I noticed that he drives out of control. Immediately I contacted 911 and gave his license plate number, but 911 kept me waiting for 6 minutes and asking not important questions and finally they told me since you reached the Newport Beach we have to transfer to Newport Beach department. Instead of wasting time they could send immediately someone to catch this guy before he kills someone. But they didn’t and I saw that the driver hit the poor bicyclist. I pull over and contacted for paramedic it took for them about 10 to 15 minutes to show up and they were not at rush at all. I told them to hurry up the bicyclist is bleeding from head. And I don’t know with having so many closer trauma center why they took him to Mission Viejo Hospital which end up that young man dye at age of 30? big question for me….. who is really responsible for his death Laguna Beach Police, Paramedic or both?

Update 4: Sandra Eagleson, the wife of the victim, describes just how much she has lost as she becomes a widow at just 31 years old. Meanwhile, the OC Weekly details Stephany’s priors; I’m told by someone with knowledge of the case that he has “fuck the police” tattooed on his forehead, along with a swastika on the back of his head.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for Shaun Eagleson and all his loved ones.

Thanks to Frank Peters, Patrick Pascal, Lois and Jeffrey Fylling for the heads-up.

 

25 comments

  1. ValleyBall1 says:

    Pacific Carnage Highway (PCH) strikes again. I will never ride that street ever again. God bless Shaun’s family and those involved by this tragedy. We all drink every now and then – just don’t get behind the wheel!!

  2. David says:

    That driver sounds like a major disaster.

  3. Vox Populi says:

    My condolences to the victims friends and family.
    I want to remind my fellow riders to please use ‘flashing lights (front and back (80watt) on your bikes when riding PCH’. Also if Orange county had been more rigid or participated in the “The Hospital and Morgue Program (HAM)this tragedy could’ve been averted. “The HAM program [is a three-part course that is designed to discourage recidivism by convicted DUI offenders. This program serves adult DUI offenders along with youth 16 and older. The
    program primarily serves persons sentenced by the Court; however, it is also open to the public.”
    I would encourage this program be implemented (voluntarily) into our city schools.

  4. George says:

    Very very sad. Should never have happened.

    I’m glad to hear,. at least, the authorities in California are taking this incident seriously.

  5. Please consider donating to help cover funeral costs for Shaun Eagleson. May he rest in peace and may people stop making poor driving decisions. http://www.gofundme.com/g2gdss

    • bikinginla says:

      I’m so sorry for your loss. Every time I write about a fallen cyclist, I hope it’s the last time we ever have to do it. And I regret that it’s already too late.

      As you said, may Shaun rest in peace. And may you, and all his family and loved ones find comfort and peace.

  6. Allan says:

    This is the third cyclist fatality on about two miles of northbound PCH in the last few months: Greg Colvin, northbound near Emerald Bay on 18 June; Debra Deem northbound on PCH at Newport Coast Dr. on 27 Aug, and now Shaun Eagleson, northbound on PCH near Crystal Cove on 19 Oct.

    • ValleyBall1 says:

      Debra Deem was August 2013 but it all amounts to unnecessary lives that are being lost. I haven’t been on that freeway of a highway every since and I exhort other cyclists to find another route as well. I agree it offers spectacular scenery but the risk is just not worth it – at least to me. God bless the Eagleson family.

    • Lois says:

      FWIW, the two 2014 fatalities occurred at a time when the sun was setting and my experience has been that it’s very difficult to see when traveling in that direction. I know because I was out riding at the same time and going the same direction as Greg Colvin was when he was hit. Because of that fatality, at dusk, I head in any direction other than west.

      • ValleyBall1 says:

        Good call Lois; sunsets are really tough when heading north on PCH. That said, there really is no hope if you’re completely trashed behind the wheel.

  7. Chris Nguyen says:

    Biking in LA,

    Thank you for posting this article able Shaun’s passing on your site. Both him and I were avid readers and I never thought that I’d be reading about a dear friend.

    His cousin posted a GoFundMe link above (Olivia Eagleson) and would love it if you could update your article with that link to help his family fund his unexpected funeral expenses.

    CN!

    CN

  8. frank peters says:

    I see rage directed at the drunk driver, but it’s the callous attitudes that make me retch. Coast Hwy needs a separated bike path, anyone can surely see, yet we do nothing. There are many more drunk and distracted drivers out there, if you really care about bike safety we must engineer safer infrastructure

  9. Jeffrey says:

    Someone named “Ziba” posted the comment in the CDMToday comment section on October 21st. I hope he speaks to the authorities and gives them everything he remembers that day.

    • ValleyBall1 says:

      Nice find Jeffrey. Here is her comment from CDM Today:

      “I think this accident could be prevented and this was the fault of Laguna Beach Police and paramedic. I was following the driver who hit the bicyclist and killed him, from Laguna Canyon in Laguna Beach and I noticed that he drives out of control. Immediately I contacted 911 and gave his license plate number, but 911 kept me waiting for 6 minutes and asking not important questions and finally they told me since you reached the Newport Beach we have to transfer to Newport Beach department. Instead of wasting time they could send immediately someone to catch this guy before he kills someone. But they didn’t and I saw that the driver hit the poor bicyclist. I pull over and contacted for paramedic it took for them about 10 to 15 minutes to show up and they were not at rush at all. I told them to hurry up the bicyclist is bleeding from head. And I don’t know with having so many closer trauma center why they took him to Mission Viejo Hospital which end up that young man dye at age of 30? big question for me….. who is really responsible for his death Laguna Beach Police, Paramedic or both?”

      • ValleyBall1 says:

        If this is indeed true (and she/he does have a lot of detail around this), then this is an even bigger tragedy. How many times have you seen a drunk driver on the road and called 911 to be put through the wringer or on hold?

      • Chris Nguyen says:

        Thanks guys. I forwarded her comment to the Investigator working on the case and he (Eric Little) said that he can assure us that the times “Ziba” posted are exaggerated due to the fact that time can feel like an eternity after you’ve witnessed a tragic accident up close. This “Ziba” person was already interviewed at the scene by the NBPD at the time of the accident.

  10. This report was my Last Straw moment. I figure 8 years of wallowing in gore, broken bodies, and broken bicycles is more than enough. I have given all I can to the cause, someone else will have to carry on with it now. I will still be available as a resource if someone has questions about a particular wreck because after reading several thousand wreck reports I have pretty much seen every possible way to get hit riding a bicycle (including getting hit by a parked car that was pushed into a bike path by another vehicle, I think that was a semi). The fact that so many lives could be saved with the money spent in 3 days of bombing Iraq (at a half-billion dollars a day on a slow day) is what angers and saddens me the most. More that 95% of the wrecks I linked to could have been prevented with infrastructure that met the Dutch CROW manual standards. $1.5 billion a year for 10 years would have the entire country built out to that standard saving about 650 lives a year from being killed by MVA while riding bicycles, and untold thousands more from secondary deaths by motor vehicles (related to our sedentary lifestyles), and even more by eliminating unnecessary car trips (can’t get hit by a car sitting in the garage or driveway).

    I would say it has been fun, but that would be a lie. It has been an honor to serve you. I’ll continue to post about other stuff, just no more bike wrecks.

  11. wil says:

    I hate to keep saying it…but riding on the roads is more deadly than ever. I know this website is full of hopefuls who want to believe that bike lanes and laws will prevent things like this, but they continue to not do so. You can hope and believe all you want, and I do for you as well, but riding on PCH where vehicles routinely are 4 feet from you travelling in excess of 55 is just too tight a tolerance to bet your life on.

    There are so many close calls even with good drivers who are sober: sunlight, fatigue, cell phones, television in cars, loud music…the list goes on and on and on and on.

    Bikers cannot be protected against the frequent risks that cars and trucks bring to the street. Everytime I drive south on PCH on the weekends and see packs of cyclists riding I think “that’s cool (kinda) but I was over that in my 20s. ”

    It’s sad when someone dies on a bike. But when you ride on the road you trust your life to the driver of a car that often can’t see you, can’t react in time, and if s/he he doesn’t, has an astronomical mass advantage.

    Ride on bike paths not shared by motorists. Find a mountain trial or track. The street in so cal is no longer (if it ever was) the place for bicycles and living long.

  12. Smiles BIG•HAZARD says:

    The idiot that took Shaun life, is better off behind bars, that fool, would of been on time out forever !! Rest n peace ,Shaun we all love you & miss you already.

  13. JD says:

    Our prayers go up for the family and friends of Mr. Eagleson.

  14. James Merino says:

    Neil storm stephany took my cousin from me forever. I can’t explain the anger i have in my heart for him. My cousin Shaun was a beautiful person I inside and out with a heart of Gold. Neil took that away from all of us. May God have mercy on him because I have not one ounce of sympathy. Shaun had a wife and was planning to have children. Shaun has a beautiful wife that is madly in love with him and was planning on celebrating their wedding anniversary this coming valentine’s day. Neil took that away. Shaun is a co owner of apex audio, a prestigious music company that’s been around forever. Shaun had so much talent as a musician and as a audio engineer. Shaun taught me how to play and created a passion for me that saved my life. Neil took that away that feeling of happiness from me. Shaun is the Godfather to my nephews. My newest nephew Isaiah was just born this late December about a month ago. Shaun will never be able to hold him in his arms because of Neil. Neil deserves no pitty. Neil had no pitty for my cousin when he struck him and fled the scene. My heart is forever broken because of Neil Storm Stephany and we all are just stuck down here forever missing my beautiful cousin Shaun Eagleson, all because of Neil Storm Stephany’s actions.

    • bikinginla says:

      Please accept my deeper sympathy for the loss of your cousin, James. Let’s hope that Stephany receives the the justice he deserves, and that you and all Shaun’s loved ones can find peace.

  15. Julie Merino says:

    Come back shaun….i need you back….

  16. David says:

    Thanks for excellent reporting on this story.

    Traditional news does not report bike incidents as much as we would like and in as much detail.

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