Update: 17-year old bike rider killed by DWP truck in Granada Hills

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Ghost Bike for Philo Ragni; all photos by Danny Gamboa

There’s something seriously wrong when a kid can’t even ride his bike home from school.

According to KTLA-5, a 17-year old boy was struck and killed by a DWP truck Wednesday afternoon, just a block away from John F. Kennedy High School in Granada Hills, where he was a student. Other sources give his age as 16.

The victim, who hasn’t been publicly identified, was riding south on Woodley Ave at San Fernando Mission Blvd when he was hit the northbound truck, driven by an electrical worker for the department. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

There’s no word on how the collision occurred; however, since it happened at an intersection while they were traveling in opposite directions, it suggests that one or the other may have been turning onto San Fernando Mission.

The station reports there were several bikes lying on a corner of the intersection following the wreck, one with a mangled front wheel.

And yes, the DWP did offer a brief statement of sympathy.

This is the fourth bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the second in Los Angeles County. It’s also the first in the City of Los Angeles since the first of the year.

Update: KNBC-4 reports the victim was a senior at the school, and had been riding with a group of fellow students. However, the story is not online yet.

Update 2: KACB-7 has identified the victim as 17-year old Philo Ragni.

According to the station, the LAPD said the DWP truck was headed north on Woodley when a group of kids crossed the street going west on San Fernando Mission; no word on who had the right of way.

However, police report that a Metro bus was driving by at the time of the collision, and may have captured the collision on video.

Update 3: KCBS-2 contradicts the KABC report, suggesting that Ragni and his friends were riding south on Woodley when he suddenly turned across the path of the truck. The station says Ragni, whose given name was Philomene, was a popular student who friends say was always happy, though troubled by the recent death of his mother.

The station also reports he was not wearing a helmet; whether or not that is relevant depends on just what injuries he suffered, and whether or not the collision would have been survivable with one.

And I neglected to include earlier that the driver remained on the scene and was cooperating with investigators; he passed a sobriety test at the scene. He is said to be devastated by what happened.

Adding to the tragedy, KTLA-5 says Ragni died on his little brother’s birthday.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for Philo Ragni and his loved ones.  

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13 comments

  1. JD says:

    We offer up our prayers for the family and friends of the young victim.

    • john moran says:

      Very misleading lead in, “There’s something seriously wrong when a kid can’t even ride his bike home from school.” It was well past time for school to be out and according to witnesses the young adults were on bikes with no brakes, had no helmets, and ride in and out of traffic all the time. It was clear from video that the truck was in it’s proper lane almost completely through the intersection and the driver was cleared as NOT under the influence. Sometimes these thing are not motorists fault, especially with kids involved. I’m a senior citizen, avid cyclist (about 90-150 mi week), ride with large fast groups and solo with 60 yrs cycling experience and I experience bad drivers all the time BUT I also constantly see kids and adults riding without helmets, wrong side of the road, darting in and out of traffic, ignoring traffic signals and stop signs making it a wonder that more are not killed or seriously injured. As cyclists we need to be more careful, obey laws, and take some responsibility to ride safely. In the past several years adults in our fast group rides have had a number of crashes and serious accidents (not with motorists) and all have survived because we are all required to WEAR HELMETS! Witnesses to yesterdays accident (including mother of one of the kids) said she/they see the kids riding dangerously all the time and are always worried about them which makes me ask, if the parents are so concerned why don’t they make the kids wear protective gear? So, lets not immediately indict motorists in the media before we have the facts.

      • Since when is 3:15pm “well past time for school to be out?” My high school let out at 3pm and many of us had after-school activities on campus.

        The teens may well have been riding unsafely and taking risks, but a big part of the problem is that our cities built so many wide roads with fast-moving vehicles, and then they put schools on them. If the his route home was on slower street, the teen’s mistake would have been more likely lead to a broken arm or leg or concussion than his death.

      • bikinginla says:

        No one is indicting motorists. I am, however, indicting unsafe streets, especially around schools where they should be the safest.

        As you say, let’s not jump to conclusions before we have the facts. It is possible that the victim was riding in a dangerous manner; it’s also possible that the driver may have been distracted, speeding, or gone through the light.

        Hopefully, we’ll find out what really happened once police have a chance to review the video from the bus. Until then, let’s try not to blame anyone.

        As for helmets, they are legally required for anyone under 18. But we have no way of knowing whether it might have made a difference in this case, since we don’t whether he even suffered a head injury; obviously, a helmet will not protect against injuries to any other part of the body.

      • Speaking of being misleading, I would suggest not jumping to conclusions about wearing a helmet. Your anecdotal evidence notwithstanding, it is very unclear whether helmet requirements in general actually save lives and/or lead to better health.

        • Meta studies have so far been unable to prove any correlation between head injuries and helmet laws on a population. Individuals might sometimes benefit from wearing a helmet, but as a population there does not appear to be any huge benefit commensurate with the decline in cycling that inevitably comes with a helmet law. IOW the reduced deaths from head injuries are more than offset by the increase in other deaths caused by not cycling.

  2. Helmets aren’t going to save the lives of most people hit by big trucks, just like seatbelts don’t save the lives of many people in cars that get crushed by big rigs. They improve the odds, but injuries lay in probabilities, not certainties.

    That said, I’d agree with my friend Janet. The roads, especially those in the valley, are like little freeways. Without assigning blame, we need cycle tracks to give kids safe routes to school so this happens less.

  3. Stephanie says:

    I was at the scene of the accident when this tragedy occurred. It is nothing more than a tragedy. No fingers should be pointed at the LADWP worker. He was abiding by traffic laws and it is unfortunate that the kids were not. All parties in this horrific accident are suffering.

    • Sam Hobbs says:

      I live in the area. I heard the helicopters hovering after the accident. Now when I go to the intersection I see all the many candles and the two bicycles left there as a memorial. Obviously it was a terrible accident that has affected many people. Stephanie, you say “it is unfortunate that the kids were not”. Since it did happen, I hope it is as much as a learning experience as it possibly can be.

      • bikinginla says:

        Let’s bear in mind that any reports on who was at fault are anecdotal at this point. While it is possible, if not likely, that the victim broke the law, it is also possible that the driver was distracted or went through the intersection after the light had changed. Let’s wait until the investigation is complete before pointing fingers.

        That said, we should always encourage everyone to obey the law and ride or drive safely and defensively. If everyone did that, things like this would seldom happen.

  4. Sam Hobbs says:

    I spoke with a young person in the area, I assume he is a Kennedy High School student walking home. He said that Philo was talking on his cell phone when the accident occurred. If so then I think, since this web site considers the establishment of blame to be important, that the dangers of talking on a cell phone while riding a bicycle is a critical (you could say fatal) piece of information. The reporting of such information can save lives and a huge amount of blame needs to be placed on the cell phone if it contributed to (caused) the accident.

    • bikinginla says:

      I’m a firm believer that no one should use a handheld device while operating any moving vehicle, two wheels or four. Safety demands full attention to the road at all times. I’m not even a fan of people walking with their eyes on their phone instead of where they’re going.

      Let’s take all rumors with a grain of salt. But whether it’s true or not, you’re right to suggest that distracted riding is dangerous habit and should be discouraged.

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