Tag Archive for San Bernardino County

Bike rider killed in San Bernardino; San Diego cyclist critically injured, as is racing legend Dale Stetina

They say bad things come in three.

That seems to be the case this holiday weekend, with fatal and near fatal collisions here in Southern California, and a cycling legend clinging to life in Colorado.

……….

According to the San Bernardino Sun, 27-year old San Bernardino resident Russell Alvin Burrows was riding south on the 18700 block of Cajon Boulevard around 8:10 pm Saturday when he was apparently hit from behind by a 2007 Toyota Corolla traveling in the same direction. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The driver of the Toyota has not been publicly identified.

A satellite view shows a four lane roadway, dropping to two lanes, with little or no shoulder, suggesting Burrows was most likely riding in the traffic lane.

Depending on exactly where the collision occurred, it’s also possible that he was right-hooked, as there are a number of driveways and a freeway on- and off-ramp in the area.

No other details are available at this time, and no word on whether he was using lights or reflectors, as it would have been nearing full dark at the time of impact.

This is the 63rd bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the ninth in San Bernardino County. That compares to 10 bike-related deaths in the county in all of 2012, and six in 2011.

……….

A 20-year old bike rider suffered life-threatening injuries in another struck-from-behind collision early Sunday morning, this time in San Diego.

The victim was riding south in a traffic lane on the 2500 block of Ingraham Street on Vacation Island in San Diego’s Mission Bay Park at 3:30 am when she was hit by a sedan. The driver reportedly swerved into the left lane when he saw her, but wasn’t able to avoid hitting her bike.

She was transported to a hospital with what a police spokesperson described as “major, life-threatening injuries.”

A street view shows the two lane roadway increasing to three lanes with no shoulders. The right lane appears to be of substandard width, suggesting that she was legally within her rights to take the lane — as well as following the advice of most bike safety advocates to avoid riding near the curb if the lane is too narrow for a bike and car to safely share.

Again, no word on whether she was using lights or reflectors as required by law.

However, police and the press are usually quick to say if a victim didn’t have lights after dark.

………..

Word broke Saturday night that an American cycling legend had suffered life-threatening injuries in a fall caused by an out-of-control driver in Boulder, Colorado’s Lefthand Canyon.

In the 1970s and early ’80s, Dale Stetina and his brother Wayne dominated American bike racing, with Wayne winning the Red Zinger/Coors Classic — then the country’s leading bike race — in 1977, and Dale winning in ’79 and ’83.

The two riders were both inducted into the US Bicycling Hall of Fame for their dominance of the sport in this country, and their role in paving the way for the first generation of American international riders that followed — riders with better known names like Andy Hampsten, Davis Phinney, Olympic gold medalist Alexi Grewal and the country’s only current Tour de France winner, Greg Lemond.

It was also long rumored that the two brothers were the inspiration for the cycling cult classic American Flyers.

So it was devastating news that 57-year old Dale Stetina was critically injured when a driver pulled onto the shoulder on the wrong side of the popular riding route, then swerved back to the other side just as a group of riders came around bend in the road.

All of the cyclists were able to avoid colliding with the car; however, Stetina reportedly went over his handlebars, landing face first on the pavement.

Despite wearing a helmet, he suffered major face and eye injuries, as well as loss of responsiveness; a CAT Scan revealed additional injuries to his brain stem. According to the Boulder Daily Camera, he remains in a medically induced coma in critical condition.

He is also the father of rising Garmin-Sharp rider Peter Stetina.

And he’s long been a personal hero and inspiration to me, dating back to when I first started riding seriously in the 1980s.

……….

My prayers and deepest sympathy for Russell Alvin Burrows and all his family and loved ones.

And I hope you’ll join me in offering prayers and best wishes for Dale Stetina and the publicly unidentified victim in San Diego; may they both recover quickly and completely. 

Update: Two bike riders killed in San Bernardino County hit-and-runs; both victims found dead on roadway

I could just scream.

Not only does the body count of bike riding hit-and-run victims continue to rise, but details on the twin San Bernardino County deaths seem to be treated like state secrets.

In what may be the single worst news item I’ve ever seen, the Press-Enterprise reports that a 55-year old bike rider, who has not been publicly identified, died somewhere in Ontario sometime on Thursday morning.

Ontario police responding to a report of a man in the street found the victim lying dead next to a bicycle, and determined he’d been hit by some sort of vehicle.

No word on where in the city of over 160,000 this might have occurred. Nor is there any suggestion of when this might have happened between the hours of midnight and noon, or any information on the victim aside from his age.

Or any other details whatsoever that might allow us to make any sense of the story.

All we know is another bike rider is dead, and another heartless coward ran away after taking the life of a fellow human being.

No word yet about the death on the San Bernardino County Coroner’s website, either; hopefully they’ll provide more information later today.

Update: The coroner’s office has identified the victim as 55-year old Ontario resident Antonio Soriano, and says he was killed on the 700 block of west State Street in Ontario; the call came in to 911 at 5:25 am.

……..

Unfortunately, searching for news of the above death on the county coroner’s website revealed yet another fatal hit-and-run in San Bernardino County.

According to a brief press release from the coroner’s office, a 911 call reported a collision between a vehicle and a bike rider in Phelan — southwest of Hesperia and Victorville — at 11:41 last night. The San Bernardino Sun offers a typically cryptic report that merely retypes the coroner’s release.

When CHP officers and San Bernardino fire fighters arrived at the intersection of Highway 138 and Gramercy Road, they found 29-year old Max Deanwallace Abraham of Wrightwood lying alone in or near the roadway; he was pronounced dead at the scene.

No word on whether he was riding on 138 or trying to cross the dangerous highway, which has earned the nickname Blood Alley.

Again, hopefully we’ll get more information later. But I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Update: Maybe it wasn’t hit-and-run after all. 

According to the Victor Valley Daily Press, Abraham was riding his bike east on Highway 138 when he was struck from behind by a Chevy Tahoe pickup traveling at 60 mph.

A CHP spokesman says he was riding within the right hand lane, even though there appears to be an adequate shoulder in the area. The paper notes Abraham’s bike and body were found four feet inside the lane.

However, the landing point of the victim’s body is a highly unreliable indicator of where the rider was positioned prior to the collision, especially when hit at high speed. It’s entirely possible that the driver drifted off the side of the road to strike his bike, and he was thrown back into the roadway by the force of the impact.

The paper also notes he was not using lights or reflectors despite the late hour, and was not wearing a helmet. If the Daily Press can point out any bike helmet capable of protecting against a 60 mph impact, then, and only then, will that last part be relevant. 

No word on why this was originally reported as a hit-and-run.

The CHP spokesperson identified Abraham as a resident of Sunland, rather than Wrightwood; no explanation for the discrepancy.  Anyone with information is urged to contact the CHP at 760-241-1186, or call anonymously at 800-835-5247.

………

These are the 52nd and 53rd bicycling fatalities in Southern California this year, and the eighth in San Bernardino County; that compares to seven in the county this time last year.

Nearly 25% of those deaths — 13 out of 53 — have been the result of hit-and-runs.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for both victims and their loved ones.

62-year old bike rider killed in Fontana collision

Once again, a bike rider has been killed in San Bernardino County.

And once again, we have virtually no information on the tragedy.

According to the Press-Enterprise, 62-year old Hershel Trueblood of Fontana was killed when he “rode his bike into traffic,” whatever that means.

The San Bernardino County Coroner reports he was riding on Sierra Avenue at Fontana Circle — an address that doesn’t seem to exist — at 8:18 am Monday when he rode in front of a vehicle, and was hit by a car headed south on Sierra; he died at Arrowhead Medical Center at 1:51 pm.

No word from any source on which direction Trueblood was riding.

From the limited description, it sounds like he may have swerved into the traffic lane, for whatever reason, and been hit from behind in a classic SWSS — single witness suicide swerve. If there were no witnesses other than the driver who hit him who can verify that he rode into traffic, it’s just as possible that he may have been riding straight and hit from behind by an inattentive driver.

As the Urban Country points out, there are incentives for drivers, police and society at large to blame the victim for his own death when he is unable to defend himself.

Then again, for all we know, he could have been riding against traffic, or either he or the driver may have somehow strayed onto the wrong side of the road, resulting in head-on collision. Or he could have been riding on the sidewalk and come out into the street.

Unless someone bothers to do a follow-upthat goes beyond retyping the coroner’s cryptic report — which too often, doesn’t happen in the Inland Empire — we may never know.

This is the 49th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the sixth in San Bernardino County. Trueblood is the third rider killed in Fontana in the last three years, and the second in the last two months; the others died in collisions with trains.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for Hershel Trueblood and his family and friends.

Update: 17-year old Ontario rider dies of injuries suffered in Sunday hit-and-run

Somehow, a good outcome didn’t seem likely this time.

While we should always hope for the best when a bike riders is seriously injured, it’s never a good sign when authorities use the term “life-threatening” to describe a rider’s injuries.

According to the San Bernardino County Coroner’s office, 17-year old Horacio Pineda died of his injuries at 8:20 Sunday night, after being found unresponsive in the street at 12:36 am.

The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin identifies the location where he was found as Riverside Drive east of Walker Ave. There was no other vehicle present; however, police believe a motorist traveling east on Riverside hit his bike before fleeing the scene.

Authorities are looking for a dark colored car of undermined make and model with likely front-end damage.

Ontario police believe the collision occurred sometime between 11:30 pm Saturday and 12:30 am Sunday. Which means Pineda could have bled in the street for more than a hour before help arrived; whether or not his life could have been saved if the coward who hit him had stopped may never be known.

As far as I’m concerned, any driver who leaves a hit-and-run victim to die in the street should be charged with murder, since he or she made a conscious decision to let them die rather than stop or call for help.

Anyone with information is urged to call the Ontario Police Department at (909) 986-67811 or Detective Steve Hurst at (909) 395-2902.

This is the 47th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the fifth in San Bernardino County, which matches the county’s total for this time last year. And it is the 10th fatal hit-and-run in the seven-county SoCal region since the first of the year.

My prayers and sympathy go out to Horacio Pineda and all his loved ones. 

Thanks to JL for the news.

Update: Ontario police are looking for a suspect, but have little to go on. Anyone with information is urged to call the Ontario Police Department at 909-986-6711, or Officer Marshall Martinez at 909-395-2001 ext. 4679.

Update 2: KABC-7 offers a nice look at who Pineda was, and just how much the coward who killed him has stolen from his friends and family, and all of us. 

21-year old Ontario cyclist killed Sunday night

The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reports that 21-year old Ontario resident Pascual Antonio Garcia was killed last night while riding in Ontario.

According to the paper, Garcia was riding on Mountain Avenue south of Flora Street when he was struck by a southbound car at 8:38 pm. He was taken to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead about an hour later.

The driver reportedly stopped and called for help.

Once again, there is no information on how the collision occurred, whether the victim was using lights or riding in an unsafe manner, or whether the driver was intoxicated, distracted or otherwise careless.

You’d think the life of a human being would be worth more than three paragraphs and four short sentences.

This is the 70th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, which equals the total for last year. It’s also the ninth in San Bernardino County, a 50% increase over the six cycling deaths in the county in 2011.

My deepest sympathy for Garcia and all his loved ones.

A poignant and angry remembrance of a fallen cyclist, and a tale of justice denied

Yesterday, I received the following email from a reader named Kate.

In it, she describes a death of a dear friend in a San Bernardino County cycling collision two years ago today, and the apparent lack of justice that followed. Which may sound familiar if you’ve followed the case of pro cyclist Jorge Alvarado and the two drivers charged with his death.

She hadn’t intended to make it public; she just wanted to vent her frustration and anger.

But I thought she had something important to say. So I asked for her permission to share it with you, which she graciously granted.

I am writing to you because Sunday, November 4th is the 2 year anniversary of the death of a dear family friend, Lynn Pletcher.  He was killed in Cherry Valley while riding in a bike lane with two other buddies.  Lynn was 70. He was fit (he had completed a 400-ish mile ride across Oregon for his 70th birthday a month prior). He was experienced and extremely safety conscious. He was a husband, father of two, grandfather of 2 (now 3).  Lynn was a retired educator who was very active in the local Rotary Club.  He was also my parents’ next door neighbor for almost 20 years, and my father’s closest friend. http://www.swrnn.com/2010/11/06/bicyclist-killed-in-beaumont-identified/

I know this is not current cycling news, but I guess I just want to vent my frustration about how this was handled. I know you don’t print names or details that aren’t already known, and I’m not looking for that.  I just want to vent.

The man who killed Lynn was never named publicly.  The man who killed Lynn was never charged with anything.  It took the cops more than a year to complete their accident report, and then it was determined that the accident was Lynn’s fault, and that the skid marks showed that he was out of the bike lane when he was hit.  The two men (one a retired postal worker and one a retired physician) who were riding with Lynn didn’t see the accident, as Lynn was last in the pace line.  Lynn was hit from behind, so regardless if he was in the lane or out of it, he was still rear-ended. The bike lane in that particular spot is 6 feet wide, wide enough to ride two abreast if you wanted to, and still be well within the lane. Rumor had it that the guy who hit Lynn was somehow connected to law enforcement, and even that he may have known the cop who came to the accident scene. He had a cell phone in his hand when he got out of the car. I heard this from Lynn’s family, but you can see that there are others out there who heard the same info. http://www.myvalleynews.com/story/52256/ .

The guy who killed Lynn got away with everything. He was never named publicly, never reported in the paper or online, he was never charged.  He never had to face Lynn’s family.  He declared bancruptcy to avoid any kind of law suit. He kept his house. The only thing he has to do is make a monetary contribution to the scholarship fund set up in Lynn’s name.  He writes the check to Lynn’s wife each month.  So far he has made 10 payments, as it took that long to get the final police report, and determine what the penality (if any) would be.  At least he has to think about Lynn every month.  Lynn’s sons are both attorneys, and after having other attorneys look over the case, they were told that based on the evidence, Lynn was most definitely not at fault, but that fighting the system would be expensive, lengthy, and likely a losing battle, so his sons and his wife opted to have the donation made to the scholarship fund each month. They are tired and sad, and don’t want to pursue anything else, which I understand and respect. Lynn’s family has been through so much in the last 2 years, they are glad the checks have been coming regularly so far, but wonder how long it will last.

Sunday will come and go, we wil leave flowers at Lynn’s ghost bike and on his grave, then we will go to lunch with his widow and one of his sons.  His killer might watch football, maybe he’ll work an extra shift and get paid overtime, maybe he’ll spend the day with his family.  Lynn no longer has that option.  I am disgusted at the how this was handled.  I am angry at the lack of accountability.  I am outraged at the blue wall protecting their own.

I will continue to read your blog faithfully, although, I have to say, some days I just want to put my bike in the garage and forget about it. Nope. I won’t let the morons of the world dictate what I do, and I will continue to do my small part to spread awareness when I can.

Thanks for listening,

Kate

Failed justice — alleged street racing killer of pro cyclist Jorge Alvarado gets off with just 90 days in jail

Pro cyclist Jorge Alvarado, a victim of our streets. And our legal system.

Sorry Jorge.

America let you down.

Or more precisely, San Bernardino County let you down, along with a court system that inexplicably denied you the justice you deserved.

You came to this country to live out your dream of becoming a professional cyclist. We sent you back in a coffin, the victim of two then-high school students who couldn’t manage to keep their feet off the gas pedal.

And then let the driver who killed you off with the barest slap on the wrist, as if your all-to-brief life had no meaning or value.

Less time than he might have gotten for killing a dog, in fact.

A lot less.

It was over two years ago, in April, 2010, that you were riding on Greenspot Road in Highland, just north of San Bernardino, training for your new role as a rider for the Bahati Foundation Pro Cycling Team, founded by Compton’s own former national crit champion Raahsaan Bahati.

It was your big break.

A chance to prove yourself as a rising rider on a new pro team with a then-promising future.

You had no way of knowing, as you rode along that country road, that your dream would end at age 27, in the field on your right.

Maybe you reacted to those cars zooming towards you. driving far too fast. You probably saw one try to pass the other at around 80 mph, and watched in horror as the other driver cut hard to the left to keep him from passing. That sent the first car, driven by Patrick Roraff, back to the right, where he hit the shoulder and lost control, skidding across the road directly into you.

You probably hit your brakes and tried to swerve.

But it was too late.

At that speed, nothing you did or might have done would have made any difference.

I wonder if you muttered an obscenity as you saw the situation unfold. Or did you whisper one last prayer, or the name of a loved one just before the out-of-control car barreled into you, slamming you into the bushes on your right?

Were you aware of what was happening? Did you know you were dying there alone on the side of the road, thousands of miles from the people you loved?

Or did you slip mercifully into oblivion, a loss of consciousness masking the pain from your broken body?

The young men who took your life were arrested, and eventually, charged with your murder.

But that’s where the wheels of justice seemed to slowly slip off the tracks.

The long wait for charges to be filed combined with endless legal delays to push any promise of justice back time and again.

Meanwhile, Roraff and co-defendant Brett Michael Morin, who was driving the other car, were able to graduate from Redlands East Valley High School. And even with a pending homicide charge, Roraff remained the star of his high school soccer team, and went on to play soccer at the University of Redlands. Perhaps foreshadowing the leniency to come, the judge even gave permission for him to travel to Texas with his team.

God forbid that killing another person should be enough to negatively impact someone’s athletic career.

Even though yours ended that day at Roraff’s hands.

To be fair, he did say he was sorry.

It looked, ever so briefly, like you were going to get the justice you deserved when Patrick Roraff finally changed his plea to guilty. Given the seriousness of the charges — felony vehicular homicide with gross negligence and a serious felon enhancement — he should have faced serious prison time.

But he doesn’t.

Instead, the judge imposed a sentence that is far closer to a pat on the back than a slap on the wrist.

Roraff was sentenced on Monday to just 90 days in jail, with three years probation, along with community service.

Ninety lousy days. And probably a lot less than that, given this state’s over-crowded jails.

That’s less that three months for what was initially described as an illegal street race  — a felony in the state of California, by the way, for which neither driver was charged — resulting in a man’s death.

And let’s be clear. This was not an accident.

Your death was the entirely foreseeable consequence of a conscious decision to use two potentially deadly motor vehicles as oversized Hot Wheels toys.

You were just collateral damage.

The court used this case to send a message — that killing another human being while recklessly endangering the public is no big deal.

So go ahead and do whatever the hell you want on the roads, because there won’t be any serious consequences.

Especially if you have athletic skills, evidently.

They might as well have thrown Roraff a party for decreasing the excess cyclist population in the county.

It matters.

Not just because you were denied the justice you so richly deserved. But because cyclists are vulnerable on the streets, subject to the whims and careless actions of those with whom we share them.

It’s the protection we receive from the police and courts — or don’t — that dictates whether those streets will be survivable. And on that count, this court failed us miserably, putting every cyclist at greater risk.

Maybe Roraff is deserving of a second chance. But by failing to give him the sort of sentence his crime called for, the legal system missed an opportunity to show things like this can’t, and won’t, be tolerated.

And making it that much more likely that it will happen again.

There’s no word on when Roraff will begin his sentence.

It’s possible that his jail time may be delayed so he can compete again this season. If not, he’ll do his time, and be free to play again; maybe even transferring to a larger school now that this is no longer hanging over his head.

Why he received this gift from the court, I have no idea. I could speculate, but it would be nothing but a guess.

And not a pretty one, at that.

The sudden guilty plea suggests that this may have been a plea bargain. If so, I would question whether any District Attorney who signed off on a deal like this is fit to remain in office.

If not, I hope local voters will keep this case in mind when the judge comes up for reelection.

And why Roraff’s co-defendant continues to fight his charges when he could get a sweet deal like this is beyond me.

Maybe he’s not a star athlete.

To say I’m disgusted is to put it mildly.

I’m sorry, Jorge Alvarado.

We failed you.

You deserved better. You deserved justice.

But like far too many people who needlessly die while riding a bike, you’re not going to get it.

And absolutely nothing about this case will keep it from happening again.

……..

Update: Cyclist/attorney Dj Wheels fills in some of the blanks in this case.

According to information on the website for the San Bernardino County Superior Court, the sentence was imposed by judge William Jefferson Powell, who was appointed to the court by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006.

Roraff was sentenced to 90 days in county jail, and taken into custody immediately after the hearing. Which means he should be back on the streets by early November at the latest, followed by three years of supervised probation; the judge also ordered his license revoked for a period to be determined by the DMV. 

And Roraff was ordered to perform 100 hours of community service, half of which must involve discussion of the dangers of reckless driving. 

The terms of his probation also prohibit the possession of deadly weapons; in his case, maybe that should include motor vehicles.

Man walking killed while walking bicycle in Lytle Creek; 12th bike-related fatality this month

And then there were 12.

In what is by far the worst month in memory for Southern California cyclists, an even dozen cyclists have now died on our streets this month alone.

According to the Press Enterprise, 42-year old Dondi Allen Quimby was hit by a car while walking his bicycle on the 200 block of Lytle Creek Road in Lytle Creek just before 1 am Sunday.

Quimby, who is described as a transient, was walking with his girlfriend along the shoulder of the road when he was hit by a 1997 Ford Thunderbird driven by Rancho Cucamonga resident Matthew Eldridge. He died at the scene; no word on whether the unidentified girlfriend was injured.

The 20-year old Eldridge was arrested about an hour later for investigation of felony drunk driving and vehicular manslaughter. And yet a spokesman for the CHP seems to be making the case for the driver’s defense, saying the location was very dark with a narrow shoulder.

Of course, if the driver was using headlights — which he certainly should have been doing at 1 am — darkness should have been irrelevant. And even a narrow shoulder suggests that a sober driver should have been able to see and avoid Quimby.

The San Bernardino County Coroner’s office is asking the public’s help in locating any of Quimby’s family members; anyone with information is urged to contact the Coroner’s Division at 909-387-2978.

This is the 41st bicycle-related fatality in Southern California so far this year — nearly one third of those this month alone. And it’s the seventh death in the last seven months in San Bernardino County, a total that equals all the cycling deaths in the county in 2010, the last year on record.

Yet another SoCal cyclist killed, this time in Hesperia

The recent rash of cycling fatalities claimed another victim on Sunday, as a Hesperia bike rider was run down by a motorist.

Although just how the collision occurred seems to be up for debate.

According to the San Bernardino County Coroner, and repeated by area newspapers, 62-year old Harold Blahut was riding south on Hickory Avenue around 8:35 pm when he was rear-ended by a southbound Volkswagen Passat traveling between 30 mph and 40 mph.

However, the Victorville Daily Press and Hesperia Star report that Blahut was riding west on Sultana Street across the intersection with Hickory Avenue when he was hit by a car driven by 34-year old Carlena Sanchez, who was traveling south on Hickory.

The Daily Press and Star also suggest that alcohol may have been a factor, but fail to note whether it was the driver or cyclist who was suspected of drinking.

This is the 32nd bicycling fatality in Southern California so far this year, and the 5th in San Bernardino County; it’s also the second fatality in less than three months in the small town of Hersperia, with a population just over 90,000.

And it’s the 10th SoCal cycling fatality in just the last 30 days — that’s nearly one-third of all bicycling deaths since the first of the year.

Breaking news — Road racing killer of pro cyclist Jorge Alvarado pleads guilty

Big breaking news from San Bernardino.

I’ve just been forwarded an email indicating that Patrick Michael Roraff has entered a guilty plea in the death of rising pro cyclist Jorge Alvarado.

According to the email from Velo Club LaGrange Race Program Director/Elite Men’s Team Manager Stu Press, Roraff pleaded guilty to charges today. He’d been charged with a single count of felony gross vehicular manslaughter with a maximum sentence of six years in state prison.

Alvarado was on a solo training ride on Greenspot Road in Highland, northeast of San Bernardino on April 8, 2010 when a car driven by Roraff went out of control while street racing and hit Alvardo, who died at the scene. Roraff later apologized for his actions.

The driver of the other car, Brett Michael Morin, was also charged in the same case; the San Bernardino County Court website indicates he’s scheduled for a disposition/reset hearing on August 15.

Roraff will be sentenced at 8:30 am on August 6th, in Department S26 of the San Bernardino County Court.

According to Press’ email, cyclists are encouraged to attend and make a brief (2 – 5 minute) victim impact statement stating how Alvarado’s death has impacted you. That can be anything from whether you knew him and suffered a direct loss, or if it has affected you in other ways, such as being afraid to ride for fear of similar incidents.

While his plea change suggests that a plea deal may be in place, a big turn out could still influence the sentence the judge imposes.

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