Update: Homeless man dies in collision with bike on Santa Ana River Trail

The Orange County Register broke the news late last night that someone had been killed in a collision with a bicyclist on the popular Santa Ana River Trail yesterday evening.

The collision occurred on the trail around 6 pm just north of Atlanta Avenue; the victim was taken to Western Medical Center in Santa Ana, where he died an hour later. Initial reports were unclear whether the victim was another cyclist or a pedestrian.

This morning, a reliable anonymous source in a position to know wrote to clear up the confusion.

58-year-old pedestrian Johnathan Charles Coontz was struck and killed by a cyclist on the Santa Ana river trail in Huntington Beach yesterday evening. He was a homeless guy, the type who collect recyclables, and he usually had a bike that he used for transportation and collecting cans, so my guess (just guessin’ here) is that at the time of the collision, maybe he was pushing a heavily laden bike, either while scavenging, or while returning to his encampment.

Homeless camp out in the clumps of thick shrubbery along this stretch of path. It’s not a place I ride, but not because of the homeless, who generally keep to themselves.  It’s just dark, you need really bright lights and you need to look out for drunks crossing the path.

Still hoping to find out anything about the cyclist.

There was some initial confusion about jurisdiction, but CHP will be the investigating agency.

It’s rare that a collision with a bike results in death, but as this incident shows, it can happen — and has happened before — usually involving a pedestrian, through fatal collisions with other cyclists have occurred, as well.

The statistic I’ve heard is that roughly six people are killed each year nationwide as a result of collisions with bicycles; however, I don’t know where that stat came from or how valid it may be.

But it’s a reminder to ride carefully in areas where other people may be present. I’ve seen cyclists plow through crosswalks crowded with pedestrians, forcing people to dodge them to avoid being knocked down.

And you don’t want to be the one who has to live with something like this for the rest of your life. Which is not to suggest the cyclist is at fault in this collision; we have no way of knowing yet what happened in this case.

As this recent helmet cam video from Michael Eisenberg clearly shows, it’s not always the cyclist’s fault — in fact, he reports he likely would have hit the man if he hadn’t he slowed down to 8 mph in anticipation of pedestrians in the area.

Update: The Register confirms the identity of the victim, though they list his age as 58 — or possibly 52, judging from the headline — rather than 62, and say he was a resident of Costa Mesa.

According to the paper, Coontz was riding north on an Electra Cruiser when he drifted onto the southbound side of the trail, where he collided with another rider. The other cyclist, a 52-year old man from Midway City, was hospitalized, as well.

And let’s not discount the tragedy because he was apparently homeless at the time of his death. Many people have fallen on hard times in this troubled economy, for any number of reasons. Whatever combination of factors may have brought Coontz onto the streets, there are undoubtedly those who loved him, and will miss him.

Update 2: Koontz’s family and friends remember him as one of the best surfers in Newport Beach in the 1970s.

Please accept my prayers and condolences for Jonathan Coontz, and all his loved ones.


  1. Duke says:

    “so my guess (just guessin’ here)” That’s a reliable source?

    • bikinginla says:

      So, someone with accurate knowledge of the situation isn’t allowed to speculate on facts that weren’t available at the time? Seriously?

      If you applied that standard to cable news, CNN, Fox and MSNBC would be forced off the air.

      And yes, he/she has repeatedly provided me with information that has later proven to be accurate. So I am very comfortable using any material he/she provides, and describing him or her as a very credible source.

      I only wish this person would allow me to provide a name so I could give credit where it’s due, but I understand and respect the reasons for the anonymity.

  2. Duke says:

    Your excuses are your own. An anonymous source who is quoted as saying, “so my guess (just guessin’ here)” can not, by any journalistic standard, be considered a “reliable source.”

    • bikinginla says:

      Well Duke, this source correctly provided the identity of the victim hours before anyone else did, and has done so repeatedly in the past. I’d call that reliable, and someone I will continue to trust in the future.

      The only guess made here, which inexplicably causes you to throw this person’s entire credibility into doubt, was an attempt to explain why the initial reports were confused as to whether the victim was a pedestrian or was riding a bike. While that did not turn out to be correct, it was a very reasonable inference — and one I probably would have made myself if this source hadn’t.

      In fact, I have many, many times ventured the same sort of guess on here to try to make sense of a situation when there has been insufficient evidence; in every case, I try to make it very clear that it is just my best guess based on the information available, which is exactly what this person did.

      If you consider that unreliable, then your problem is with me. I’m the one who writes this blog, and makes every decision on both the content, and the sources I trust.

      And I don’t make excuses.

      • Duke says:

        Believe what you wish. I have no problems at all. I think naming the man, and incorrectly at that, before an attempt is made to notify or find the family is unconscionable, especially by journalistic standards.

        I know the difference between bloggers and journalists and for clarity’s sake, it would be nice if bloggers like you didn’t try to use terms meant to gauge standards that you don’t abide by.

        I can’t blame someone for not knowing what journalism is and I don’t blame you. I’m sorry for the man’s family and the way you “broke” the story, which, (and I know you don’t understand this) was not done to any standard at all. Guessing, by any definition is not reliable. Perhaps it’s a vocabulary issue?

        The AP and Economist both have style books that are available and just think how much better your reportage could be if you kept to some type of standard, at least style-wise!

        Or not. I’m guessing you’ll choose the latter…or make another excuse.

        • bikinginla says:

          Duke, I studied journalism, and I’ve been a professional writer for over 25 years. And I suspect I’ve read the AP Style Book, Strunk & White and the Chicago Manual of Style more than you’ve seen them sitting on the shelf.

          As for your other equally unfounded complaints, my source did, in fact, get the name right. And any belief you may have that the name was released before next of kin was notified is something that you’ve made up; my story went up about the same time as the Orange County Register published theirs naming the victim. If I released the name too soon, then shame on them and their journalistic standards, as well; the only difference was in identifying the age of the victim, which is often in flux as a story unfolds. You may also note that the press release from the coroner’s office in that previous link identified the victim as a pedestrian, so my source had more than sufficient basis to speculate that the victim may have been walking his bike.

          As for my standards, at least I know better than to throw out baseless accusations in an attempt to discredit others. If you can find one iota of truth to your charge that I got the name wrong or released the victim’s identity before the next of kin was notified, show me and I’ll fall on my sword apologizing. And without knowing the identity of my source or the source of his or her information, you have absolutely no basis to challenge his or her credibility — and yet, you continue to do so, and mine, as well.

          I stand by everything I write 100%; when I make a mistake, I am more than happy to correct it, and would gladly do so now if you can only point one out to me. But if that doesn’t suit your high standards, I can only offer my apologies, and point out that you are under no obligation to read something that is so clearly beneath you.

          • Duke says:

            I love “editors” of blogs who say they went to college or say their journalists and throw out anything taught in college journalism. Publishing incorrect information isn’t journalism and guessing isn’t reliable. Defending both of those underscores your lack of journalistic knowledge and definitely your lack of integrity. That being said, I’d love for you to point out any editor who responds to critique from readers with “you are under no obligation to read.” This is usually reserved for the viewers of shows like “Jerry Springer” who are told, “It’s for entertainment, you can change the channel.” So, you do keep to tabloid TV standards, congrats for that.

            Your blog is definitely entertaining, but you have proven in this discourse and the aforementioned article that you are not a journalist. Why not just be the blogger you are; stick to your ‘reliable” guessers but stop playing journalist and cease from breaking the tenets of journalism that can save the relatives of the deceased, who may be readers, the grief that you cause by making us wonder if you are talking about our relatives, which you were.

            Get it now? I seriously doubt it, but thanks for the extra confusion and grief you have cause us. Thanks for the advice on not reading you anymore. I’m taking it. Wish I had done that before your irresponsible, disastrous coverage of our tragedy. Remember; it’s called the WORLD WIDE web.

            • bikinginla says:

              Duke, I absolutely get it now.

              In every single previous case where someone repeatedly disparaged me and this blog, beyond any rational sense, it turned out that they were related to, or friends of, the person in question — which is exactly what I surmised about you, and which you have finally confirmed.

              Sorry, son, but you have an ax to grind, and I will not allow you to do it on my neck.

              If you want to defend your relative, be honest about it. If you want to write a guest post explaining what happened from your perspective, all you have to do is ask. But don’t continue to pretend this has anything whatsoever to do with journalistic integrity.

              Your anger is about nothing more or less than attempting to defend someone you know who — responsible or not — took the life of another human being.

              As for suggesting that you don’t have to read my blog, I have never asked anyone to come here. People read this because they find some value in it; if they don’t, then they don’t.

              Clearly, you don’t. Not my problem. You are as welcome to read this blog as you are not to. Your choice, not mine.

              I wish you and yours a healthy, happy and prosperous new year. And for your relative’s sake, I sincerely hope that the investigation concludes he was not at fault, and he can find peace and live with what has happened; I’m not sure I could.

              Anything you may have concluded to the contrary came from your own anger and overly vidid imagination, not anything I may have written.

            • Duke says:

              WRONG RELATIVE. I mentioned nothing personal. I spoke only of standards which we hold to in journalism. Nothing more. Point proven.

            • bikinginla says:

              Ah, so you are highly offended that I didn’t announce the identity of the victim until AFTER it had been released by the coroner’s office, and that someone guessed that he might have been walking rather riding.

              Yes, now I can see where I have failed as both a writer and a human being, despite offering my prayers for both the victim and his family — which, ironically enough, includes you.

              Like it or not, I will continue to pray for your relative, and for you and the rest of your family.

              Oh, and in the future, try directing your anger where it belongs, rather than making disparaging accusations without knowing who or what you’re talking about.

            • bikinginla says:

              Oh, and one other thought. If you had politely asked me to correct any mistakes you thought I had made, instead of simply disparaging first my source and then me, I would have gladly fixed them without delay — as I have done for countless others in the past.

              You could have used the opportunity to educate us about who your relative was and what actually occurred from your perspective. Instead, you chose to needlessly attack, repeatedly accusing me of providing false information without making the slightest attempt to correct it.

              If you can show me anything I have written that is wrong and hasn’t already been corrected, by all means, let me know. Regardless of what you may think of me, my goal is to always be as honest and accurate as the situation allows. If you believe I have failed, it is incumbent upon you to offer facts, not criticisms.

  3. JD says:

    Critics sometimes get so flustered that they forget how to spell common words.

  4. Terry "T-Bird" Beard says:

    Johnny Coontz was a US surfing champion in the World Championship of surfing at Huntington at the age of 14. Noted as one of the best surfers to have ever rode the waves at Newport Beach, “Johnny” was a fin-first take off and switch foot specialist. Spinner King! Johnny will be missed and remembered by all his friends and fans as true surfing legend.

  5. John "Johnnycakes" Thompson says:

    Tb, Tb, Tb, Tttbbbiiirrrd, caw caw caw caw. Yep Johnny coons was a great surfer, we all went to surf the ranch together and he climbed up in the tree and jumped up and down on a big branch till it broke so we had firewood to burn. He came down with a thud along with the branch and the rangers at the state park weren’t to happy us burning up there trees. We had alot of fun and good waves. Johnny will be missed. Rest in peace my friend!

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