Update: Bike-riding mom killed Sunday in apparent collateral damage crash in Lake Forest

This news from this past weekend just keeps getting worse.

Longtime Orange County bike advocate Bill Sellin has forwarded news that a woman was killed while riding her bike in Lake Forest Sunday morning, apparently the victim of an out-of-control driver.

While the initial reports appeared on Nextdoor, which is not always the most reliable source, the Orange County Sheriff’s department confirms a crash occurred just before 8 am on El Toro Road at Normandale Drive.

Sellin confirmed with Lake Forest officials that the victim of the crash was killed.

Meanwhile, a woman identifying herself as the victim’s daughter reports that the crash occurred when a driver apparently lost control, jumping a curb and hitting a light pole on one side of the street, then ricocheting across the street to hit the victim before crashing into another light pole on the opposite side of the street.

All of which implies the driver may have been traveling at an extreme rate of speed, even given the irrational 55 mph speed limit on the roadway.

Photos from the scene taken from Nextdoor show the mangled bike resting on the sidewalk in front of the smashed pickup; Sellin reports the location of the victim’s body was marked in front of her bike.

There’s no word on the victim’s name or age, though we can surmise her last name from her daughter’s post.

A person identifying themselves as her neighbor reports the victim was a mother of three.

There has been nothing in the news yet, and no official confirmation from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, which patrols Lake Forest, or the Coroner’s office; unfortunately, the OC Coroner no longer posts death notices online.

This is at least the 19th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the fourth that I’m aware of in Orange County.

Update: The victim’s daughter has identified her as Sara Wheaton; sadly, she turned 49 the day she died. 

According to the daughter, Wheaton’s body was thrown 20 feet from her bike by the force of the impact. And neighbors who heard the crash don’t recall the sound of braking. 

My deepest sympathy and prayers for Sara Wheaton and all her family and loved ones. 

Thanks to Bill Sellin for doing all the legwork and tracking down the information for this story. 


  1. David says:

    Yes. OC has some really high speed limits on local streets.

    • Thrawlbrauna says:

      55mph on a 6 lane roadway with wide bike lanes and double wide side walks isn’t the issue. El Toro has held that speed limit for at least a decade or more.. it’s more likely the druggies and drunks recently moved from LA and other larger city centers. This isn’t the only incident, a few months back an impaired driver struck pedestrians in RSM. There are several other incidents recently. If you’re going to drink take an uber a cab or sleep it off.

      • bikinginla says:

        This is far from the first fatality I’ve had to write about on El Toro. 55 mph speeds are basically unsurvivable for anyone outside of a car, and allow little or no time to escape if a driver is barreling down on you. Never mind that most drivers exceed the posted speed limit by a minimum of 5 to 10 mph, and often much more. And there’s no reason to blame LA or any other major city; Orange County has more than its own share of homegrown drunk and stoned drivers.

        • David says:

          I actually just got home from a day working in OC.
          I was driving from Huntington Beach along PCH to Seal Beach to the 405. The legal speed limit over there on PCH is 60 MPH! Some cars push up to 70 MPH. This is on PCH! I am not talking the 405.

          There is a narrow shoulder area that cyclists like to ride on both sides between Huntington Beach and Seal Beach–the city put of some “share the road” signs. But that’s really fast speeds to have cars passing you close on a bicycle. There are some major interstates that max at 55 MPH.

  2. Alex Zartman says:

    Sara Cassidy Wheaton was a close friend of mine in High School in Maryland. All of us who knew her at that time are devastated by this news and are thinking of her husband and three kids who are processing this tragedy. She was the kindest soul, giving of herself always. “The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”

  3. Elizabeth Stapleton says:

    Sara Cassidy Wheaton loves me to the foot of the Cross of Christ Jesus at a time when I couldn’t love myself and had a hard time trusting other people. She always ended every conversation with “God loves you and so do I.” We were supposed to talk on the phone this week. She said she was busy over the weekend with birthdays, but she would be free this week. Free indeed! “No death, no pain, no mourning cry, and every tear may dry.” (The Book of Revelation, as interpreted by Michael Care in “New Jerusalem”)

  4. Claudia says:

    My mother-in-law lives off that intersection (Normandale and El Toro Rd,) and over the years, we have seen many, many accidents along that stretch. I don’t think the posted speed is excessive but many drivers exceed it, and the unprotected left-hand turn from Normandale onto El Toro also causes its share of problems.

    My sister was staying at my mother-in-law’s and called me around 8:20 that morning to say there was an accident at El Toro and the northbound road was closed. Since my daughter had driven that way very shortly before, I called her to make sure she was OK. She reported passing an accident that “looked bad” which had just happened, as first responders had not yet arrived. She thought a truck had possibly hit a person on a bike or scooter.

    Not until yesterday did we find out that the victim had died and that we knew her. Sara Wheaton and her family attended our small church for several years. We are shocked and saddened. My husband and I also bike–mostly mountain biking, because despite our wide and well-marked bike lanes, it terrifies me to ride along the busy streets of OC.

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