Forget what I said — San Diego salmon cyclist wasn’t, killer driver who supposedly stopped actually didn’t

First he was wrong.

Then he was right.

Sort of like me in trying to cover this story.

Either way, San Diego cyclist David Ortiz is still dead, victim of the three cars that took his life a week ago today.

In one of the most amazing turnarounds of a collision narrative that I’ve ever seen, the 29-year old Ortiz was originally blamed for riding against traffic when he was hit by a Ford Expedition, followed in quick succession by two other vehicles. He was pronounced dead at the scene, his body trapped beneath the final car that hit him.

Now it turns out that the driver of that Expedition fled the scene — something that was not only completely left out of the initial reports, but actually contradicted by statements from police.

The San Diego Union-Tribune quoted a police spokesman as saying the first driver stopped at the scene, and clearly implied that she may not have been at fault.

It appears that he was first hit by a black Ford Expedition whose driver had the rising sun in her eyes as she drove up a slight incline on east Balboa, police Sgt. Jim Reschke said.

“The gal in the SUV – she never saw him,” Reschke said. “She felt the collision and pulled over.”

Yet it now turns out that she didn’t stop. Or if she did, she evidently left without providing her identification, as NBC San Diego reports that the driver fled the scene.

According to Bike San Diego, San Diego police officials have also issued a retraction to their earlier statements that Ortiz had been riding against traffic. Comments on the initial report here indicate that Ortiz was actually riding eastbound — with traffic — on his way to work when he was killed, rather than westbound as police had said.

The NBC report also indicates that his body came to stop in the area where he should have been riding, although they note that doesn’t necessarily mean that was where he was when the SUV initially hit him.

And as it turned out, despite initial reports, he was wearing a helmet after all. Not that it would have made a damn bit of difference under the circumstances.

In other words, aside from the actual location of the collision and the number of vehicles involved, virtually every important detail in the initial reports from the SDPD was wrong.

Yet they seem to have been tripping all over themselves to blame the victim, from incorrectly claiming he was riding in the wrong direction to offering statements — that originated God only knows where — to exonerate a killer hit-and-run driver.

Not that they haven’t done that before.


The San Diego police have a lot of explaining to do on this one.


  1. Opus the Poet says:

    This is one of the times that being unable to remember names was good for me. I thought I was reading about a completely different wreck that just happened, not a complete re-write of the narrative of the wreck from weeks ago. The only things consistent between the two reports was the number of vehicles and the location, which made me think it was a similar wreck that was on the same street as the salmon wreck. Now I feel like an idiot…

  2. On the day of the crash, there was a comment on one of the reporting news websites that seemed to be from a witness and said the cyclist was riding with traffic, not against it. I took a look back later and the comment was gone. I can imagine that witness would have seen the hit/run driver flee…

  3. Opus the Poet says:

    I can’t connect to the original article right now, but my blog post noted that there was a picture of the weapon vehicle showing impact damage to the driver’s side headlight in that article. That makes me wonder where did that picture come from if the driver of the Ford left without giving her name.

  4. BC says:

    Would be good if we could get some feedback to the UnionTribune about this as well, including in the comments to the article, encouraging them to not bury this botched police reporting. Maybe something like:

    — Hey UnionTribune! How about a front page article about the 180 degree turn around on this story on the tragic death of 29 year old David Ortiz. The SDPD have retracted and reversed their statements.

    He was riding in the right correct direction, contrary to your article (which led to much counter productive discussion on your site based on that false assumption.) and it is a hit and run, also contrary to your article. How about an article on how the police were able to get this so wrong and were so quick to blame the victim – my God, while his body was still on the ground.

  5. Opus the Poet says:

    I have gone back over the crime scene pictures (took a while to find them again) and there is just so much about this wreck that makes no sense. The pictures of the bike after the wreck indicate a bike that was hit from the front, bent fork, crushed front wheel, only slight damage to the rear of the bike. The weapon vehicle (not an accusation just my shorthand for the first vehicle to hit the bike/cyclist) shows a clear imprint of what appears to be a bike tire impact on the left front corner of the vehicle. Unless, that was not the first vehicle that hit the cyclist but hit the front of the bike after the real weapon vehicle somehow caused the bike to reverse position (flip or spin) so that the front of the bike hit the driver’s side front corner of the second vehicle.

    But for that scenario to work there would have had to been 2 Ford Explorers of the same or similar color driving in tandem, and how often do you see that happen? So the interview was with the second driver, not the one that left without leaving information.

    And we are venturing dangerously close to tinfoil hat territory here.

  6. lucky.penny says:

    David Ortiz Memorial Ride

    We are riding from Balboa Park to City Administration Building to demand better cycling infrastructure. David Ortiz’s death this week represents the quintessential problems faced by San Diego cyclists on a daily basis: inattentive drivers, poor infrastructure design, and a societal mindset that cyclists are 2nd class citizens.

    This could have happened to anyone of us, we have to stand up and demand better.

    We will ride from the fountain at Balboa park at 4pm (Wednesday) to the city administration building located on 202 C St. Upon arrival, we will lay down on the ground with our bikes to represent the 2,000 cyclists and pedestrians injured and killed on the streets of San Diego every year.

    In order to make this a strong showing, we need 2,000 people so please invite everyone.


  7. billdsd says:

    Not hit-and-run. All drivers who hit Ortiz cooperated with police. They are still looking for witnesses though:

  8. […] For more on the story, read Ted Roger’s post on this. […]

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