Update: Bike rider killed by moving truck in Rancho Palos Verdes

Ghost bike for Jonathan Tansavatdi; photo by Jim Lyle

Ghost bike for Jonathan Tansavatdi; photo by Jim Lyle

Word is just coming in that someone has been killed while riding a bicycle in Rancho Palos Verdes.

Very few details are available at this time.

However, KNBC-4 reports the victim was struck by a moving truck on Vallon Drive near Hawthorne Boulevard around 2:50 pm this afternoon; presumably they mean a truck for a moving company, rather than one in motion.

According to the station, sheriff’s deputies believe the truck, which KCBS-2 identifies as a big rig, was making a right turn off an undisclosed side street when it struck the rider.

The victim was pronounced dead at the scene. No other information is available at this time.

A satellite view shows Vallon as a narrow, winding residential road; Via la Cresta is the only cross street that enters it, just above Hawthorne, though Vallon connects with Marne Drive just below Hawthorne.

This is the 24th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the 6th in Los Angeles County.

Update: The Daily Breeze confirms the collision occurred at Vallon and Via la Cresta.

Update 2: KNBC-4 changes the location once again, writing that the collision took place at Hawthorne and Vallon.

According to a sheriff’s spokesperson, the victim was riding down the hill on Hawthorne at a high rate of speed, estimated at 45 mph. The driver of a Mayflower truck turned right onto Hawthorne in front of the cyclist, who was unable to stop at that speed.

The driver continued on, reportedly having no idea the rider had collided with his truck. 

However, if the rider was really going that fast, he would have hit with a significant amount of force, making it seem odd that the driver failed to notice. 

Regardless, sheriff’s deputies concluded that the driver didn’t break the law, and everything he did was “legal at the time.”

Update 3: In their report from the scene, which I was unable to view last night, KNBC-4 reports the truck was stopped at the red light headed west on Hawthorne, and made a wide turn onto Vallon when the light turned green.

The victim, who still hasn’t been publicly identified, apparently rounded a blind curve on westbound Hawthorne while descending at a high rate of speed; unable to stop, he slammed into the side or rear of the truck. 

The driver continued on, dragging the bicycle roughly 200 feet up Vallon before finally coming to a stop. 

There’s no way to know if the victim would have had a chance if the driver had stopped after the initial collision.

Update 4: The victim has been identified as 29-year old Redondo Beach resident Pissanuk Jonathan Tansavatdi. Thanks to Martin Blount for the heads-up. 

Meanwhile, Blount forwards a video showing the descent on Hawthorne Blvd. The intersection at Vallon comes into view at the 1:30 mark, with the riders passing through at 49 mph, giving credence to the police theory that Tansavatdi may have hit the truck at 45 mph.

Update 5: I’ve heard from a relative of Tansavatdi, who described him as sunny, cheerful, handsome, talented engineer, and a friend to many.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for the victim and his or her loved ones.

Thanks to Richard Masoner for the heads-up. 

21 comments

  1. Josh Cohen says:

    It makes you wonder whether this road was narrower than one on which big rigs are allowed. Many moving companies use a smaller shuttle to get stuff down to where it’s safer to load and unload. Even if there is no express rule about it, best practices may be something safer than what was practiced here.

    • Jeff says:

      I live near where this happened and at that point it’s a steep downhill going around a soft bend and just after the bend is a stop light, Vallon Rd. The Mayflower moving truck was making a wide right turn and the cyclist was probably didn’t notice the trucks turn signal until the truck started to turn and it was too late at that point and couldn’t stop in time as he was going too fast. Typically at that point you can hit 30 to 40 mph on a bike so I’m sure you can guess it wan’t pretty. I won’t go into anymore details as it was a gruesome scene.

      My heart goes out to the family with deepest sympathy.

      • CG says:

        I live on Vallon Drive and this section of the hill is very dangerous and there has been car accidents and at least one previous death. As a cyclist myself you have to take serious precaution around this curve headed into the steepest grade of the downhill on Hawthorne, plus you have indication via signs that there is a stop light. There is a right turn lane in order to turn into Vallon Drive, so as a cyclist you would have to aware of any vehicles making right hand turns. It is a sad sad accident but doubtful the drive would be at fault here.

  2. What a horrible thing. My condolences to the loved ones.

  3. james says:

    If the driver of the truck had made a right hand turn in front of a car that couldn’t stop in time no one would be talking about what was “legal at the time.” We would say he pulled out in front of a car that had the right of way and he would be considered at fault.

    • Marty says:

      Was the cyclist overtaking the truck on the right hand side? If so that would explain why the police consider the truck’s turn was legal.

      • bikinginla says:

        There is no suggestion that the rider was passing on the right. From the description by KNBC, muddled though it is, the victim was riding down Hawthorne at a high rate of speed when the driver made a right turn in front of it off a side street, apparently referring to Vallon. Hopefully other sources will report on the story in the morning, giving us a clearer picture of what happened.

        • Marty says:

          The cyclist and the truck were both on Hawthorne Bl. We know the cyclist was traveling south on Hawthorne, descending towards Palos Verdes Dr. West. The only way the truck could have made a right turn in front of him is if the truck was coming off of Vallon Dr., entering Hawthorne Bl. However, what really happened was the truck was turning right onto Vallon from Hawthorne, which means the cyclist was behind the truck on Hawthorne Bl. traveling in the same direction. The cyclist and the bike were dragged up Vallon Dr. by the truck. So the only thing that makes sense to me is the cyclist passed the truck on the trucks right side while the truck was making a legal wide turn onto Vallon.

          • bikinginla says:

            KNBC’s live report from the scene makes it pretty clear the rider rounded a blind curve on Hawthorne at a high rate of speed while the driver was making a wide turn from Hawthorne onto Vallon. From the sound of it, it seems far more likely that he simply was unable to stop after seeing the truck, rather than trying to undercut it on the right.

            Either way, the result is the same.

            • Marty says:

              I ride that descent often and there are no blind curves, least of all that one.
              For the sake of argument: The report says the cyclist and bike were trapped under the truck and dragged some distance up Vallon Dr. How is that more likely to happen – with a collision to the rear of the truck or with a collision with the side of the truck as might be expected when you hear the words “the truck made a right turn in front of the cyclist” ?

            • bikinginla says:

              I’ll have to take your word for it, since I’ve never ridden there. Although the street view certainly looks like the intersection would have been out of view from a short distance above it, which is all I have to go on.

              I’m not saying the victim didn’t hit the side of the truck; just that it seems unlikely that he was trying to pass it on the right. It seems more likely that the truck was blocking the right side of the roadway, and for whatever reason, he was unable to go around. It also seems likely, having been in similar situations, that he may have lost control of his bike trying to panic stop at such a high speed and fallen under the truck, which would explain both being dragged and why the driver was unaware of the collision.

              However, unless we get more information, it’s all just speculation at this point. Chances are, we’ll never know what really happened.

            • Marty says:

              Ted, good points; that well could be how the accident happened. May he or she rest in peace.

            • MJS says:

              I’ve descended that hill many times and that corner is indeed blind when you are traveling 40+mph on a bike. If the light is red there, by the time you see it, you don’t have much time to react and stop.

  4. Marty says:

    Whatever the causes of the accident, I’m very sorry we have another tragic death in our cycling family. My sympathy to the family and friends of the victim.

  5. Luke says:

    I rode past this scene at about 4:00 PM.It looked like the bike (and presumably the rider were dragged up Vallon about 100 feet) So I think as described above is what happened, he was descending the truck turned right on front of him onto Vallon where the collision happened. I saw a couple of Big Orange bottles on the road but make assumptions. It was a horrific scene. the reason I know it was a he was I asked a sheriff if it was a Women (my wife was also riding the hills at the same time) and he shook his head “no”. Be careful out there everyone. No one is paying us to be out there.

  6. Moya Schloegl says:

    It was a young man 27 I think, rolling down hill with great speed. The diesel truck is noisy, the man hit the side of the truck. The driver was very miserable, to tears, he did not notice the collision.

    • Marty says:

      The Daily Breeze has identified the victim. He was 29 years old.

    • bikinginla says:

      Thanks Moya, I appreciate the info. However, I’ve removed the description of the victim and the scene; that’s a little too much information. Based on previous experience, there’s a good chance that family members of the victim will read this post. That’s not an image we want to leave them with.

  7. JD says:

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

  8. Ralph says:

    Another issue to think about, the cyclist may have been speeding. Based on the signs it is a 35 mph section with warnings about a traffic light coming up. Wonder if the driver had an ap like Strava. If he was going 45, the video of riders descending show almost 50, he may not have had time to stop or get out of the way even if the truck was just stopped at the light.

    Sad situation all a round.

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