Tag Archive for San Bernardino County

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.

Update: Victorville-area cyclist killed in hit-and-run, 3rd fatal cycling injury in just 24 hours last week

Sometimes I just want to scream.

In the past two days, news has broken about three cycling fatalities in the Southern California Region, each injured in an 18-hour period last week.

This time, it’s the victim of a Victorville hit-and-run who died on Friday, two days after he was run down by a heartless coward and left for dead on the side of the road.

According to the High Desert Daily Press, 27-year old Alabama resident David Epperson was walking his bike on the east side of Ridgecrest Road south of Pebble Beach Drive in Spring Valley Lake, just east of Victorville, around 10:30 pm last Wednesday. A northbound SUV reportedly drifted off the road, striking Epperson and driving off without stopping.

He was airlifted to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in critical condition, where he died on Friday.

Judging by the street view photos, there does not appear to be a shoulder or paved sidewalk alongside the roadway, suggesting that Epperson may have been forced to walk in the street. And suggesting that poor road design may have played a part in his death, as well.

Authorities are looking for an early 1990s Ford SUV with possible front-end damage. Anyone with information is urged to contact the Victorville office of the CHP at 760/241-1186 or 800/78-CRIME (782-7463).

This is the 26th cycling fatality in Southern California since the start of the year, and the fourth in San Bernardino County — and the second rider to die of injuries suffered in San Bernardino County last Wednesday. Epperson is also the 5th cyclist to killed by a hit-and-run driver this year.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for David Epperson and his loved ones.

Update: According to the High Desert Daily Press, CHP investigators have arrested a suspect in the death of David Epperson. 

An anonymous tip directed officers to a home in Victorville, where they found the damaged car and arrested 26-year old Jason Thomas Scott.

The paper reports that Scott was allegedly drunk at the time of the collision, and has been charged with gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and felony hit-and-run. He’s currently being held on $250,000. 

Scott has a history of arrests for DUI, disorderly conduct and assault with a deadly weapon. Yet once again, it wasn’t enough to keep him off the roads, and once again, an innocent person pays the price.

It will be interesting to see how authorities make their case that Scott was intoxicated at the time of the collision, since a full week had passed between the wreck and his arrest — more than enough time for any intoxicants to leave his system, or to argue that any substances remaining in his system were taken after the collision. 

Unless he has confessed to being under the influence, or they have witnesses who can attest that he was drinking heavily or taking drugs, the intoxication enhancement seem to be very difficult — if not impossible  — to prove.

Rancho Cucamonga cyclist dies after being found injured on bike trail

Monday was not a good day for badly injured cyclists.

Just hours after Lihsiang Chang passed away in La Jolla on Monday, 51-year old Robert Snedacker of Rancho Cucamonga lost his life after being found laying next to his bike on a noted biking and hiking trail.

A passerby dialed 911 at 8:19 pm last Wednesday after finding Snedecker lying on the Pacific Crest Bike Trail with a head injury; he was pronounced dead just after 10 pm on Monday. No information is available on what caused his injury, and no word on where he was found on the trail or if he was wearing a helmet.

While it seems obvious that he fell while riding, it’s also possible that he could have hit his head on a low branch or other object while riding or suffered a medical condition that caused him to fall, or less likely, that he could have been the victim of violence.

This is the 25th cycling fatality in Southern California this year and the third in San Bernardino County, as well as the sixth solo cycling death since the first of the year. That compares with seven solo bike fatalities in all of 2011.

My prayers for Robert Snedacker and all his family and loved ones.

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