Tag Archive for bicycling fatality

Update: DA refuses to file charges in Milt Olin case

The investigation is finally complete.

As predicted as soon as the LA County Sheriff’s Department inexplicably insisted on investigating itself in the death of cyclist and former Napster Exec Milt Olin, no charges will be filed against the deputy who killed him.

And as long predicated by myself and others, the immediate cause of the collision was the deputy’s use of the patrol car’s onboard computer while traveling on a winding road at 48 mph.

It was clear that the Sheriff’s Department was attempting to downplay their investigation — if not coverup the results — when they announced late on the Friday before Memorial Day that it had been turned over to the DA’s office for evaluation over a week before.

Then, nothing.

Not a word from the District Attorney for over three months, until news broke late this afternoon that the deputy responsible, Andrew Wood, would not face charges.

DA refusal letter (pdf)

Surprisingly, it actually appears the Sheriff’s Department recommended a charge of vehicular manslaughter; not surprisingly, the DA declined to file, saying they did not feel they could prove the deputy was negligent, which would be required for a conviction.

As we have discussed before, the case hinged on CVC 23123.5, which prohibits using electronic communication devices while driving — but exempts police officers and other emergency service workers in the performance of their duties.

According to the DA, that exemption applied in this case, as Wood was typing a response to a query from another officer when he drifted into the bike lane and rear-ended Olin’s bike without ever braking.

As often happens in such cases, Wood initially claimed Olin swerved in front of him in the traffic lane, and he only went into the bike lane in an attempt to avoid him. That is, until physical evidence and witness testimony proved him wrong, at which point his story changed to say he never saw Olin prior to the collision.

Yet somehow, the mere fact that Wood was driving at nearly 50 mph — in a bike lane — with no idea what was on the road directly in front of him is not sufficient evidence of negligence as far as the DA’s office is concerned.

Simply put, there are only two options.

Either the deputy was at fault for driving distracted — even though he could legally use the computer, he is still required to drive in a safe and legal manner.

Or the Sheriff’s Department itself is negligent for a policy allowing its officers to use the onboard computer in a manner that places everyone else at risk, as they will undoubtedly be found responsible for in the civil suit filed by members of the Olin family.

Either way, thanks to the complicity of the DA’s office, no one will ever be held accountable for the death of an innocent man, whose only crime was going for a bike ride on a sunny afternoon.

And a dangerous, if not deadly, policy will never be changed.

Thanks to Brenda Gazzar for breaking the story. 

Update: The afore mentioned Brenda Gazzar offers a detailed look at the case and the DA’s decision not to file charges in the LA Daily News, including this:

Eric Bruins, planning and policy director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, said he was disappointed to see a clearly distracted law enforcement officer escape charges on what he called a technicality.

“Just because the law allows someone to do something while driving doesn’t mean they are allowed to do something unsafely while driving,” Bruins said. “Hitting someone from behind is very clear evidence that whatever was going on in that car was not safe and should have been considered negligent.”

It’s definitely worth a read to get the full story.

Meanwhile, LAist quotes several angry tweets from very pissed-off cyclists. Including yours truly.

 

 

Update: Experienced cyclist dies in Eagle Rock solo fall; 9th LA bicycling fatality this year

Sometimes, all it takes is a crack in the street to take a rider down.

That appears to be what happened last week in Eagle Rock, as a bike rider died in a solo fall on Colorado Blvd.

Details are still very sketchy. However, reports are that Edgardo Gabat, reported to be 55 or 56 years old, was riding on Colorado Blvd east of Figueroa last Thursday when his wheel got caught in a crack or seam in the pavement and he fell hard. He was taken to Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, where he died some time later.

No other details are available at this time. And no word on whether he was wearing a helmet; this appears to be the sort of slow speed fall that bike helmets are designed for, as opposed to the often high speed impacts of traffic collisions.

A ghost bike ceremony will be held at the scene at 9 pm this evening.

This is the 63rd bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the 24th in LA County. It’s also the 9th bike death in the City of Los Angeles, which compares to 11 in the city this time last year.

Update: According to Carlos Morales of the Eastside Bike Club and Stan’s Bike Shop in Monrovia, Gabat was a very experienced cyclist who always wore a helmet. He was also a popular member of Adobo Velo, Southern California’s largest Filipino-American cycling club. 

He also notes that the area around this intersection is notorious for poor pavement conditions, resulting in several traffic incidents involving cyclists. In fact, Morales is aware of at least one lawsuit that has been filed against the city by a bike rider who injured there. 

Update 2: In a comment below, Joseph Pagulo says that he was riding with Gabat, and that his fall came in the middle of a descent, so it did not occur at a slow speed.  

My deepest sympathy and prayers for Edgardo Gabat and all his loved ones.

San Diego cyclist died following Aug 6th collision with another cyclist; 2nd bike-on-bike fatality in 10 days

Unfortunately, the news media doesn’t always get it right.

A few weeks ago, TV stations in San Diego reported that two bike riders had collided on a bike trail at Lake Miramar, sending a 73-year old rider to the hospital. However, San Diego’s NBC-7 reported that the victim’s condition had improved, and he had been released later that same day.

But as the song says, it ain’t necessarily so.

Sadly, it turns out that the victim, Gus Pabalan, died at 4:30 the next day, 24 hours after the bike-on-bike collision that took his life.

The much-loved rider was injured around 4:30 pm on Wednesday, August 6th, when he collided head-on with another cyclist. According to the news reports, he suffered major head trauma, while the other rider was uninjured.

No word on whether he was wearing a helmet; however, all the photos of Pabalan on the website of his local bike club, Mira Mesa Cycling Club, show him with one. Photos of the scene show a 10 mph speed limit, which a commenter says is often ignored.

A well-attended memorial ride was held for Pabalan last Sunday.

No word on why the riders ended up on a head-on trajectory, or whose fault it might have been. However, this should be yet another reminder to always ride safely around other cyclists and pedestrians; it only takes a momentary mistake to change someone’s life forever.

Or end it.

This is the 62nd bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the sixth in San Diego County. And he is the second cyclist to lose his life as a result of bike-on-bike collision in the county in less than 10 days.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for Gus Pabalan and all his friends and love ones.

Thanks to Smorg for the heads-up.

 

San Diego cyclist dies three months after collision with another rider

Very sad news from San Diego County.

According to an obituary from the San Diego Union-Tribune, 57-year old Santee resident Paul Fleck died earlier this month as a result of injuries suffered in a bicycling accident.

The incident occurred May 10th; his death came almost exactly three months later, on August 9th.

An email forwarded to me from the OFFBAC riding group fills in some of the details.

Apparently, Fleck was riding downhill in the bike lane on Highway 52, though it doesn’t specify where on the highway, traveling at about 30 mph. Another rider was struggling uphill with his head down when he swerved to avoid something and drifted into Fleck’s lane, where they evidently collided head-on.

He had been hospitalized ever since, and appeared to be making progress until he succumbed to cranial bleeding.

No word on the condition of the other cyclist.

This is the 61st bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the fifth in San Diego County. It’s also the two SoCal road death resulting from a collision with another rider since the first of the year.

Please, ride carefully out there.

Update: I’m told the area where this collision occurred is actually a two-way separated pathway that was built when 52 was widened a few years back, removing the shoulders where cyclists used to ride.

Correction: I originally wrote that there had three bike on bike fatalities this year. However, this is actually the second death this year; the count was off due to an entry error in database. My apologies for the mistake. 

Correction 2: Actually, three cyclists have been killed in collisions with other riders; I was just unaware of the third until now.

My deepest prayers and sympathy for Paul Fleck and all his loved ones.

Thanks to Phillip Young of the San Diego Wheelmen for the heads-up. 

10-year old bike rider killed in Hesperia

Just heartbreaking.

According to the Hesperia Star, a young bike rider was killed yesterday when he rode out in front of a car at an intersection.

Ten-year old Hesperia resident Arnold Covarrubias was riding east on the north sidewalk along on Main Street at Third Avenue at 8:45 pm when he attempted to cross Main without warning, and was hit by a Kia SUV. He was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead at 9:35 pm.

Investigators say Covarrubias may have been distracted by a stray dog when he rode out into the intersection against the light and was hit by the SUV, which was headed west on Main with the green light.

A satellite view shows a major intersection with two to three lanes of traffic in every direction.

The driver remained at the scene and cooperated with police; speed or alcohol use did not appear to be factors in the collision. As always, however, the key is whether there were other witnesses besides the driver, who has an inherent interest is seeing his actions in the best possible light.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Deputy Simon DeMuri from the Hesperia Station at 760/947-1500.

This is the 60th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the eighth in San Bernardino County. Remarkably, that’s exactly the same rate as this time last year in both the county, and the greater SoCal region.

It’s also the fifth bicycling death in Hesperia, population 92,000, in the last three years.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for Arnold Covarrubias and his family. 

Riverside hit-and-run victim dies after being taken off life support

A heartbreaking week just keeps getting worse.

According to KABC-7, Riverside hit-and-run victim D’Andre Sutherland was taken off life support on Tuesday.

The 27-year old father of two was riding near the intersection of Magnolia Ave and Beechwood Place around 2 am Sunday when he was hit by an SUV driving north on Magnolia. The driver fled the scene, leaving Sutherland lying in the street with what police described as significant injuries.

He was taken to Riverside Community Hospital, where he remained on life support for the next two days.

None of the stories describe how the collision happened; however, KTLA-5 reports he was riding in the number two lane. Since Beechwood is just a single lane in each direction, that means he had to have been riding on Magnolia, which suggests that he may have been the victim of a rear-end collision.

A ghost bike was installed in Sutherland’s honor on Wednesday. As Mark Friis, Executive Director of the Inland Empire Biking Alliance observed, there have been too damn many of them required in the Inland area this year.

Police are looking for a silver or beige SUV, similar to a Ford Flex, with major damage to the windshield and front end. 

Anyone with information is urge to call Detective Felix Soria at 951/826-8720 or email FSoria@riversideca.gov. 

This is the 59th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the 11th in Riverside County, which compares with 12 for all of last year. Sutherland is also the 11th bicycling bike rider to lose his life in a hit-and-run since the first of the year.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for D’Andre Sutherland and all his family.

Bike rider killed in Vista train collision; popular randonneur killed Saturday in Santa Maria

Sometimes, all it takes is a single tragic error in judgement.

That was the case last night, as a bike rider lost his life apparently trying to beat a train in North San Diego County.

According to multiple sources, a 48-year old man, who has not been publicly identified, was hit by a Sprinter light-rail train in an unincorporated area of Vista. The collision occurred at a railroad crossing at the intersection of Woodland Drive and South Santa Fe Avenue at 8:07 pm Monday.

According to witnesses, the warning gates had been down for more than 40 seconds, with the lights and bells activated, when the victim rode around the gates and onto the track. He was struck by oncoming the train, which had been sounding its horn as it approached the intersection.

The victim was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

No explanation was given for why he attempted to cross the tracks despite multiple visual and audible warnings.

He was the third person killed by a train in the county in the last five days.

This is the 58th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the fourth in San Diego County. He is also the third bike rider to be killed by a train in the seven-county SoCal region since the first of the year.

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

Thanks to Rick Risemberg for the heads-up. 

……..

I don’t normally report on bicycling fatalities that occur outside the SoCal region.

However, I’ve gotten multiple reports of a cyclist killed on Foxen Canyon Road in the Santa Maria area over the weekend.

According to the Santa Maria Times, the victim was a 33-year old Chula Vista resident, who was hit by a 16-year old driver in a truck pulling a horse trailer.

Now word is coming in that victim was Matthew O’Neil, a popular randonneur well known in SoCal riding circles. I’m told that a group of riders participating in the ultra-distance event came upon the scene shortly after the collision, and recognized the victim by his unique Bacchetta recumbent bike.

Meanwhile, rumors are swirling that the driver is the son of a woman involved in another fatal wreck on the same road in 2012.

Hopefully, we’ll have more information later.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for Matthew O’Neil and all his family and friends. 

Thanks to Mike T for the link

 

Update: 40-something cyclist killed in DTLA; second rider to die on Alameda Street in the last six months

More bad news, this time from Downtown Los Angeles.

According to a press release from the LAPD, the victim, identified only as a man in his early 40s, was hit and killed by a flatbed tractor trailer on Alameda just south of 20th Street at 1:10 pm Monday.

The police report says the cyclist was riding with traffic on southbound Alameda Street when he was sideswiped by the driver; he fell into the roadway, where he was run over by the truck’s rear wheels.

The victim was pronounced dead at the scene. His identity is being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

The driver remained at the scene and was cooperating with investigators; he was not suspected of being under the influence. Several vehicles initially stopped at the scene, but the drivers did not remain to talk to police.

According to Carlos Morales of the Eastside Bike Club, witnesses said the victim, who was riding a cruiser bike, was hugging the curb when the driver attempted to squeeze past in the same lane.

And clearly, failed.

Anyone with information is urged to call LAPD Central Traffic Division Detectives at 213/833-3713 or Detective Felix Padilla at 213/486-0753. You can also call the Central Traffic Division Watch Commander at 213/486-8344.

This is the 57th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the 23rd in Los Angeles County. It’s also the eighth bike death in the City of Los Angeles since the first of the year, and the second cycling fatality on Alameda Street since February of this year.

Update: The Long Beach Post has identified the victim as 42-year old Long Beach resident Jarone Bartee; thanks to Danny Gamboa for the link. 

My deepest sympathy and prayers for Jarone Bartee and his family. 

Thanks to Carlos Morales of the Eastside Bike Club for the heads-up.

Bike rider killed in Orange; OC bike deaths match total for all of last year

Bad news from Orange County, with very few details.

According to the Orange County Coroner’s office, a male bike rider was hit by a car at the intersection of N Glassell Street and E Chestnut Ave in the City of Orange last Friday morning.

The collision occurred at 8:36 am; he was transported to UCI Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead 45 minutes later.

No other details are available at this time. The Coroner’s report doesn’t give an age or city of residence for the victim, which suggests they haven’t been able to identify him yet — another reminder to always carry ID whenever you ride.

This is the 56th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the 12th in Orange County, which matches the total in the county for all of last year.

And it’s the second cycling fatality in the City of Orange this year, following the death of Joseph Robinson on Santiago Canyon Road in February.

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

Thanks to James Johnson of the Johnson Attorneys Group for the heads-up.

Update: Bicyclist killed in Menifee collision; Riverside County bike fatalities twice as high as last year

A bad year for Riverside County bicyclists just keeps getting worse.

According to the Press-Enterprise, two cyclists were riding east on Domenigoni Parkway at Lindenberger Road in Menifee when they were rear-ended by a motorist around 5:20 pm. One rider, who has not been publicly identified, was killed, while the other was not seriously injured.

DailySoCal lists the location as Winchester, and describes the car as a single passenger vehicle driven by a man, who was cooperating with investigators.

No other details are available at this time.

A satellite view of the intersection shows what looks like a bike lane, suggesting the riders may have been in their own lane and should have been out of the way of through traffic when they were hit. No explanation was given for why the driver apparently drifted out of his or her lane to hit the riders.

This is the 55th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the 10th in Riverside County. That compares with just five in the county this time last year, and 12 for all of 2013.

Update: According to Menifee 24/7, the victim, described only as a man in his 50s, was declared dead at the scene.

The website also places the location at the top of a hill east of Lindenberger, and describes the roadway as the primary route between Menifee and Hemet. A photo shows a narrow, half-gutter bike lane or shoulder next to a thoroughfare with a 55 mph speed limit; however, Google’s street view shows a lane wide enough for two cyclists to ride abreast leading up the hill.

The site quotes Menifee resident Stephen Kaas as saying he was riding just ahead of the victim when the collision occurred.

I didn’t really see what happened,” Kaas said. “He was riding behind me. I just heard it and saw him flying through the air.

It’s unclear from the description whether the two cyclists were riding together, or if Kaas’ bike was struck, as well.

Anyone with information is urged to call Riverside Sheriff’s Deputy Josh Cail at 951/210-1068.

Update 2: Menifee 24/7 has identified the victim as 55-year old Menifee resident Matthew Carp, who was riding in the bike lane with Stephen Kass when he was hit from behind by a car driven by 23-year old Luis Aranda Llamas of San Jacinto. 

Despite wearing a helmet, Carp suffered major head trauma and internal injuries. According to the site, Kass barely avoided injury himself. 

Llamas was reportedly driving at a high rate of speed when he hit Carp. While bike helmets can protect against injury at slower speeds, they aren’t designed to protect against high speed collisions, and do nothing to prevent injuries to other parts of the body.

Still no word on why Llamas drifted into the bike lane; he was booked for vehicular manslaughter and for displaying a fictitious license plate.

Update 3: More on the collision from a rider who lived nearby, and knew both the victim and his companion. Witnesses reported seeing the driver weaving in and out of the bike lane as if distracted; investigators seized his phone as evidence. Thanks to C Menjou for leaving the link in a comment below.

In a demonstration of just how hard this has struck the local community, Danny Gamboa tells me the city of Menifee reached out to ghost bike volunteers to request an installation in memory of Carp, and will be closing the street from 4 to 5 pm Saturday for a memorial. He also says the city recently removed a bike lane on another street, forcing riders onto Domenigoni where Carp was killed.

And in a heartbreaking tragedy of Shakespearean proportions, Carp’s oldest son apparently took his own life following his father’s death.

There are no words.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for Matthew and Cameron Carp and all their family and loved ones.

Thanks to Zak for the heads-up.

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