Tag Archive for Debra Deem

Breaking News: No justice for OC cyclist Kenneth Prevatte; civil suit filed in Debra Deem case

Once again, there’s no justice for a fallen rider.

Late Tuesday, I received an email from the sister of Kenneth Prevatte, killed in a rear-end collision while riding in a Sunset Beach bike lane on PCH in Huntington Beach over two years ago. She informed me that Becki Lee James, the driver charged in the death of the popular Long Beach cyclist, was acquitted in a trial this week.

She reports James had been charged with vehicular manslaughter; she had originally been arrested on suspicion of felony DUI causing great bodily injury & gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

No word yet on why the alcohol charges had been dropped or why she was acquitted in what seemed like a clear cut case; hopefully we’ll have more information soon.

But at least the Orange County District Attorney should be congratulated for filing charges in a case with no guarantee of victory — unlike the LA DA.

And hopefully, Prevatte’s family will get the justice they deserve in civil court.

In an aside to the case, one of the potential jurors dismissed from the jury pool in the James trial was the brother of teenage cyclist Sean Severson, killed while biking to school in Fountain Valley.

Pity that those who would make the best jurors in cases like this are the ones who are automatically excluded.

……..

Speaking of civil court, I received a press release from Torrance-based law firm AgnewBrusavich, the firm behind the CalBikeLAw.com website, announcing they had filed a civil suit in the death of cyclist Debra Deem.

Deem, the wife of former Olympian cyclist and Cycle Werks bike shops owner Paul Deem, was riding in the bike lane on PCH in Newport Beach when she was right hooked by a driver turning onto Newport Coast Drive.

The suit alleges that the State of California and the City of Newport Beach were both negligent in the design and maintenance of what has been described as a very confusing intersection by cyclists who ride there. Unlike other intersections in the area, the bike lane reportedly disappears prior to the highway-style interchange, leaving riders with no clear pathway to the other side, and no guide for drivers on where bikes are likely to be positioned.

According to the release, Paul Deem filed the suit, at least in part, in hopes that it will bring much needed safety improvements to this section of PCH.

Meanwhile, I’m told that the case against the driver, 84-year old Robert James Anderson, ended in a mistrial on Friday; no word yet on why or if the case will be refiled.

 

Update: Driver faces charge for August death of Debra Deem in Newport Beach

Maybe there will be justice for Debra Deem after all.

According to CdM Today, a misdemeanor charge of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence has been filed against 84-year old Irvine resident Robert James Anderson, the driver who took her life in a Newport Beach collision last August.

The site reports the case was filed last Friday, and he’s expected to be arraigned on February 3rd.

Deem was riding west on East Coast Highway just east of Newport Coast Drive at 4:28 pm on August 28th when she was struck by a white minivan driven by Anderson.

The van as traveling in the same direction as Deem; however, it’s not clear if her bike was struck from behind or if he turned into her. Police merely say Anderson made an unsafe lane change that resulted in the collision.

Several people who ride through the area suggest that the design of the intersection, with a dangerous transition from the shoulder bike lane through the freeway-style interchange, may have contributed to the collision.

Deem was the wife of local cycling legend Paul Deem, a former Olympic cyclist and the owner of the Cycle Werx bike shops in Costa Mesa and San Clemente.

According to the Daily Pilot, the charge carries a maximum sentence of one year in county jail.

To be honest, though, as much as I believe in justice for all cyclists, I’m not sure what good there is in sending an 84-year old man to jail. The real benefit may simply be getting a driver who may be too old to drive safely off the roads.

Then again, that probably should have been done long before the collision that took Debra Deem’s life.

Thanks to Amy Senk and Jeffrey for the heads-up.

Update: More information from the Orange County Register; for a change, the story isn’t locked up behind their paywall. 

The paper reports neither speed or alcohol appeared to be a factor in the collision. In an interview, Anderson says he has only received on traffic citation in his life, oddly, for another improper lane change in 1966.

According to his lawyer, witnesses to the collision said Deem left the bike lane when she was cut off by another driver, placing her bike in the path of Anderson’s van. The lawyer says he never saw her. Or rather, never had a chance to see her.

Reading between the lines, it sounds like prosecutors will argue that if Anderson hadn’t made the illegal lane change, Deem’s bike wouldn’t have been in front of him. Or at the very least, he would have had a chance to see her and react.

Then again, her bike should have been clearly visible in the bike lane before any of this unfolded.

And the tragedy is compounded by the heartbreaking effect it’s had on her husband.

“My initial thought was ‘accidents happen,’ “ he said. “People get in a hurry. I’ve been in a hurry. Fortunately I’ve never killed anybody.”

But he keeps thinking about the unfairness of the situation. He lost his wife and later, he said, his house.

“I’m not quite sure what Mr. Anderson’s losing in this thing,” Deem said. “He doesn’t lose his house. If I sue him for wrongful death, he files for bankruptcy and keeps his house and life goes on. I’ve lost my life. … From a justice standpoint, I’ve lost everything.”

Breaking news — Newport Beach bicyclist dies of injuries from Tuesday collision

I’ve just received confirmation that a bike rider critically injured in a Newport Beach collision has died of her injuries.

Debra H. Deem was riding west on East Coast Highway just east of Newport Coast Drive at 4:28 pm when she was struck by a white minivan traveling in the same direction. The 58-year old Laguna Beach resident suffered major head trauma despite wearing a helmet, suggesting that the impact may have occurred at relatively high speed.

She was transported to the trauma center at Mission Hospital, where she was disconnected from life support earlier today. A statement issued by the Newport Beach Police Department late this afternoon confirmed earlier reports of her death.

A cyclist who lives in the area describes the intersection as very dangerous, with inadequate transitions from the shoulder bike lane through the freeway-style interchange.

The victim is the wife of local cycling legend Paul Deem, a former Olympic cyclist and the owner of the Cycle Werx bike shops in Costa Mesa and San Clemente. Local attorney and former bike racer David Huntsman says Deem helped inspire his own racing career, and says Debra Deem’s death will devastate the Orange County cycling community “like a death in the family.”

Deems’ fatality comes just less than a year after that of Sarah Leaf on East Coast Highway and Dr. Catherine Campion Ritz on Newport Coast Drive; the twin deaths resulted in an outpouring of grief and a commitment to improve safety in the city.

This collision was just one of two separate Orange County wrecks that left bike riders critically injured yesterday afternoon. Another cyclist was struck while riding on Rancho Santa Margarita Parkway, resulting in what was described as severe injuries; no word yet on that rider’s condition.

The Newport Beach Bicycle Master Plan Oversight Committee meets on September 3rd; Deems’ death will undoubtedly bring a number of riders out to discuss her death and demand safer streets.

This is the 62nd cycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the eighth in Orange County; that compares with seven in the county this time last year. As noted, it’s also the third bicycling death in Newport Beach in the last 12 months, and at least the sixth since 2010.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for Debra Deem, and all her family and loved ones.

Thanks to David Huntsman, Allyson Vought and NBPD Deputy Chief David McGill for their help with this story.

Update: A friend of Deem’s describes her as “a mother, wife, attorney, gourmet chef, homemaker and cyclist,” according to Corona del Mar Today

The Orange County Register reports the victim of the Rancho Santa Margarita crash is a 34-year old man, who remains in critical condition.

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