Tag Archive for bicycling fatality

Update: 89-year old bike rider killed in San Diego; police blame the victim

Sadly, it couldn’t last.

After suffering just three bicycling fatalities in the first six weeks of the year, four Southern California bike riders have lost their lives in just the last week.

The latest, an 89-year old man who reportedly rode out into traffic on a busy San Diego street.

According to the Union-Tribune, the victim, who hasn’t been publicly identified, was leaving a parking lot on Imperial Avenue near Marketplace Avenue around 10 am Tuesday. The paper reports he rode straight out into the roadway, heading north, despite a right turn only sign.

He made it nearly all the way across the four lane avenue before he was struck by a pickup traveling west in the right lane.

No word on how fast the driver was going, or why he wasn’t able to stop in time. Despite the apparent victim blaming in the U-T report, and another from KUSI-TV suggesting he rode “directly” in front of the oncoming truck, he should have been visible to the driver after crossing three lanes of traffic.

The victim was taken to a hospital with a broken pelvis and major head injuries; he died there later the same day.

This is the seventh bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the second in San Diego County.

Note:I am not attempting to blame the driver in this collision. As billsd and Jennifer point out in the comments below, the victim appears to have broken the law in some way and may well bear at least some responsibility.

What I am questioning is how the collision could have occurred as it has been reported. A cyclist who manages to make it almost all the way across a four lane roadway cannot be described as riding out into traffic, let alone directly; it had to be clear at least part of the way for him to make it that far. So the question becomes why the driver was unable to see and avoid someone who presumably was riding slowly across the street, and why the victim thought he could make it across. 

Maybe the driver’s view was obstructed by another vehicle; maybe the victim couldn’t see the car coming or misjudged its speed. We simply don’t know based on the limited information available. 

Another possibility is that the police gave the wrong direction for which way the victim was traveling. If he was headed south out of the cemetery on the north side of the road, rather than north out of the shopping center parking lot to the south — where there is no exit, as billsd points out — then he might have ridden out in front of an oncoming car, and the driver may have been unable to stop in time.

All I know is that this story does not make sense as it has been reported.

And as Jennifer points out, I may have been overly critical of the press, as they appear to have relied on the information provided by the police.As a result, I have changed the headline which initially criticized the news sources for blaming the victim.

Update: A comment from Bill Jordan may clear up the confusion. He suggests the collision could have occurred further west at the parking lot drive identified as Edgefield Way, which does have a no right turn sign, and roughly correspond’s with the KUSI report, which placed the collision on the 4300 block of Imperial Ave.

He also says the site is just west of a hill, as well as trees in the median, both of which could have hidden the victim and the driver from one another until it was too late.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for the victim and his family. 

 

47-year old bike rider killed in Escondido collision

More bad news, this time from North San Diego County.

According to the Union-Tribune, a bike rider in his 40’s has died following a wreck in unincorporated Escondido. The Times of San Diego lists his age as 47.

The victim, who has not been publicly identified, was riding south on Mesa Rock Road north Windsong Lane just before 7 pm yesterday when he was struck by a Jeep Cherokee traveling in the same direction.

He was taken to Palomar Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

The 26-year old driver remained at the scene. The U-T reports it’s not yet known if drugs or alcohol were factors, or how fast the SUV was traveling.

A satellite view shows a two-lane road with no visible turning points, increasing the likelihood that it was a rear-end collision.

This is the fifth bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the first in San Diego County. That compares with 17 in SoCal this time last year.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for the victim and his loved ones.

Update: 17-year old bike rider killed by DWP truck in Granada Hills

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Ghost Bike for Philo Ragni; all photos by Danny Gamboa

There’s something seriously wrong when a kid can’t even ride his bike home from school.

According to KTLA-5, a 17-year old boy was struck and killed by a DWP truck Wednesday afternoon, just a block away from John F. Kennedy High School in Granada Hills, where he was a student. Other sources give his age as 16.

The victim, who hasn’t been publicly identified, was riding south on Woodley Ave at San Fernando Mission Blvd when he was hit the northbound truck, driven by an electrical worker for the department. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

There’s no word on how the collision occurred; however, since it happened at an intersection while they were traveling in opposite directions, it suggests that one or the other may have been turning onto San Fernando Mission.

The station reports there were several bikes lying on a corner of the intersection following the wreck, one with a mangled front wheel.

And yes, the DWP did offer a brief statement of sympathy.

This is the fourth bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the second in Los Angeles County. It’s also the first in the City of Los Angeles since the first of the year.

Update: KNBC-4 reports the victim was a senior at the school, and had been riding with a group of fellow students. However, the story is not online yet.

Update 2: KACB-7 has identified the victim as 17-year old Philo Ragni.

According to the station, the LAPD said the DWP truck was headed north on Woodley when a group of kids crossed the street going west on San Fernando Mission; no word on who had the right of way.

However, police report that a Metro bus was driving by at the time of the collision, and may have captured the collision on video.

Update 3: KCBS-2 contradicts the KABC report, suggesting that Ragni and his friends were riding south on Woodley when he suddenly turned across the path of the truck. The station says Ragni, whose given name was Philomene, was a popular student who friends say was always happy, though troubled by the recent death of his mother.

The station also reports he was not wearing a helmet; whether or not that is relevant depends on just what injuries he suffered, and whether or not the collision would have been survivable with one.

And I neglected to include earlier that the driver remained on the scene and was cooperating with investigators; he passed a sobriety test at the scene. He is said to be devastated by what happened.

Adding to the tragedy, KTLA-5 says Ragni died on his little brother’s birthday.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for Philo Ragni and his loved ones.  

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Philo-Ragni-Ghost-Bike-3

 

 

Bike rider dies after January hit-and-run in West Covina; third bike rider killed in SoCal this year

And then there were three.

The San Gabriel Tribune reports that Emilio Simon, a 50-year old resident of West Covina, died Thursday after fighting for his life for nearly two weeks following a hit-and-run last month.

Simon was walking his bike in the middle of the block across Francisquito Ave just west of California Ave in West Covina around 8:10 pm on January 23rd when he was hit by a westbound SUV.

The driver fled south on Sunset Ave, apparently without stopping, leaving Simon suffering from severe injuries in the street.

The car was described as an older silver Jeep Grand Cherokee, 1997 to 2001; police said it may have damage to the front driver’s side.

Anyone with information is urged to call West Covina police at 626/939-8500, or 24-hour tip line at 626/939-8688.

Let’s catch this jerk.

This is the third bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the first in LA County; that compares to six in the county this time last year.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for Emilio Simon and his family. 

Palm Desert bike rider killed in early morning collision; DUI suspected

We knew it couldn’t last.

After a rare month in which only one bike rider was killed anywhere in Southern California, another rider has lost his life on SoCal streets.

And just five miles from the site of last month’s tragedy in Palm Desert.

According to the Press-Enterprise, 51-year old Bermuda Dunes resident Todd Barajas was hit by a 2002 Porsche driven by Thomas Karl Doczi of Rancho Mirage at 2:18 am Saturday morning, on westbound Hovey Lane just west of Corporate Way.

No word on where Barajas’ bike was positioned on the roadway or how the collision occurred. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Doczi was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter; according to the Desert Sun, police suspect he may have been driving drunk.

This is just the second bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, compared to 13 this time last year. And it’s the second in both Palm Desert and Riverside County since the first of the year.

Remarkably, no bike riders have been killed anywhere else in Southern California since the end of last year.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for Todd Barajas and all his loved ones.

 

A rider fallen, family and friends shattered, and a young woman on the verge of hard time

It’s hard to believe it’s been a full year.

Yes, all traffic deaths are tragic.

But some seem more troubling than others, haunting the edges of memory until something — an anniversary, a ghost bike, a news story — brings it back full force. And you’re struck once again by the incredible waste of it all.

A life taken for no reason.

Other than a driver’s carelessness and — alleged — criminal behavior.

A 21-year old bike shop worker taking the long way to work early on a Sunday morning, run down from behind by an 18-year old girl accused of having meth in her system from the night before.

It was exactly one year ago today that Joseph Robinson was killed by a hit-and-run driver while riding in a bike lane on Santiago Canyon Road in Orange while on his way to Jax Bicycles in Irvine. Sommer Gonzales was charged with the crime after being arrested in a parking lot not far away on Santa Margarita Parkway, reportedly while hiding evidence in a friend’s car.

It was thanks to an off-duty firefighter that Robinson was discovered off the side of the road, on the verge of death. And that a police officer had the information he needed to spot Gonzales’ car and make an arrest.

OC Battalion Chief Mark Stone was on his way to work when he spotted the badly damaged car traveling in the opposite direction, and began looking for what — or who — the car had struck. The only visible sign of the crash was a tumbleweed smashed against a guardrail, and a single bike shoe resting on the road.

Evidently, I’m not the only one who’s been haunted by Robinson’s needless death.

A memorial ride was held in Irvine this morning; hundreds of riders were expected to participate, escorted to the site of his ghost bike by Irvine police and CHP officers.

Meanwhile, Gonzales faces felony charges for vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence while intoxicated, driving under the influence of drugs causing bodily injury, hit-and-run causing death and possession of a controlled substance.

In addition, she’s charged with misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia, with sentencing enhancements for inflicting great bodily injury and fleeing the scene of a crime, according to the MyNewsLA website.

The site reports she could spend over 15 years in state prison if convicted on the felony charges, with an additional six months in county for the misdemeanor count.

Our anonymous South Bay correspondent was in the courtroom recently for the preliminary hearing for Sommer Gonzales.

………

The preliminary held Wednesday, January 21st, was lengthy and at one point during some protracted questioning by the defense, the judge interrupted to remind him that the purpose of the prelim is to present only the most germane facts.

And the facts appear to be these:

Sommer Nicole Gonzales had been hanging out at a private residence in Anaheim on Saturday night. About 3 am on the morning in question, she allegedly smoked meth. A couple hours later, she began her drive to visit a 24-year-old gentleman friend in South County, taking a route familiar to her. Her undamaged vehicle is seen on the video surveillance of a Villa Park 76 Station shortly before she reached Santiago Canyon Road. At 6:47 am she texted a reply to the persistent gentleman friend, saying she was going through Santiago Canyon.

At approximately 6:55 am, she left a frantic message on another friend’s mom’s voicemail, stating that she had “hit something” and needed help. (The mom, for the record, disapproves of her son’s acquaintanceship with Gonzales, and immediately deleted the message.)

Although video surveillance from the gated entrance of the nearby Loma Ridge Emergency Operations Center didn’t capture the impact that flung Joey’s body 200 feet through the air, it shows that Gonzales stopped and exited her damaged vehicle. She did not walk back towards the site of the collision. Instead, twenty-five seconds later, she got back in the driver’s seat and continued driving southbound on Santiago.

OCFA Battilion Chief Marc Stone, commuting northbound, noticed the smashed hood and shattered windshield of Gonzales’ car as it passed him by the south entrance of Irvine Lake. The magnitude of the damage to her windshield initially, very briefly, made him think the car had struck a deer, but his intuition instantly put him on alert. Three miles up the road, he spotted crunched-up tumbleweeds and a lone bike shoe nearby. The same surveillance video shows his truck slow and flip a U-turn. Off camera, he found Joey’s body and dialed 911. Just up the hill, the dispatchers at the Loma Ridge Facility, which houses the county’s emergency communications bureau, relayed the description of the damaged maroon Toyota to law enforcement.

A sharp-eyed Sheriff’s deputy located the suspect’s vehicle, along with the suspect and her 24-year-old gentleman friend, in a parking lot. She had burn marks on her lips and paraphernalia in her purse. She had all sorts of nystagmus and was uncooperative with officers who attempted to administer a field sobriety test. After very few questions, she was taken into custody.

The judge listened to both sides impassively, examining all the exhibits and asking pertinent questions. Throughout the hearing, he was observant, neutral and unreadable, even during the defense’s closing arguments that dropped jaws in the audience.

The defense, possibly sensing the hopelessness of requesting a dismissal of charges, contended that Gonzales’ behavior that night did not meet the definition of gross negligence. The judge disagreed, and stated several reasons to support his opinion: She was high. She was texting. She was on a road familiar to her as one popular with cyclists. She, for whatever reason, maneuvered her vehicle straight into a marked, eight-foot wide bike lane. She failed to investigate the cause of the damage to her vehicle. Fifteen miles away from the scene, she parked her car head-in so that the damage would not be so visible to passers-by. She called pretty much everybody except 911. She made conflicting statements to law enforcement. Her “credibility,” concluded the judge, “is a question for the jury to decide.”

And, despite his calmly expressed finding that the evidence in the case clearly merits a more thorough examination by trial, there was no mistaking his own incredulity at the defense’s claims. I’m fairly sure everyone else in the courtroom (with the exception of Gonzales and her lawyer) wanted to yell “YESSS!” and add a fist pump for good measure.

………

She goes on to offer her personal take on the case:

Gonzales is an idiot for not taking whatever lenient plea deal she was offered, because it’s off the table now. Let alone for not learning anything about how to manage her addiction during three (count ‘em, three) stints in rehab as a minor.

And it’s disgusting that her gentleman friend hasn’t been charged as an accessory after the fact. He was helping her remove her possessions from her damaged vehicle when the two were discovered. He’s also the brilliant mind who suggested that she reposition her vehicle so that the damage would be less noticeable, and “accidentally” deleted the texts he sent and received that morning (it took a subpoena to his carrier, but the DA has them all).

Meanwhile, Orange County traffic engineers still think 55 mph is an acceptable speed on a downhill stretch with a blind vertical curve. And the tower visible off in the distance from where Joey was killed, the one that looks like a steeple?

It belongs to the county’s 911 dispatch center.

………

Two lives were destroyed that morning; two families shattered and countless friends shaken.

Sommer Gonzales may have a chance to rebuild hers once she finally gets out of prison — assuming she’s convicted, of course.

Joseph Robinson will never get that chance.

 

 

73-year old handcyclist killed in Palm Desert collision on Monday; first SoCal bicycling death this year

A bike rider from Colorado lost her life riding in Southern California, just five days into the new year.

According to the Desert Sun, 73-year old Rose Peters of Durango CO was hit by a car in Palm Desert this past Monday, and died after being taken to a local hospital.

The collision occurred around 11:30 am at the intersection of Mesa View and Highway 74. There’s no word on who may have been responsible, though the paper says drug or alcohol use is not believed to be a factor.

Her hometown Durango Herald adds more information, reporting that she was hit in a left cross when the driver made a left turn directly into her bike, striking it on the side. She suffered extensive injuries, dying about an hour later.

Tragically, Peters’ husband, who was waiting for her further down the road, was unaware of her death until several hours later; according to the Durango Herald, he got the news after calling several area hospitals to learn her condition.

The couple had been married for over 50 years, and had often ridden together on tours such as the Ride the Rockies and the Bicycle Tour of Colorado, as well as riding across the country a few years back.

She was a volunteer with Incight, an organization dedicated to helping people with disabilities reach their full potential. The couple was spending the winter in the area, living in a mobile home.

The wreck is still under investigation. Anyone with information is urged to contact Palm Desert Police Deputy Chris Lauer at 760/836-1600; you can also call anonymously at 760/341-7, re: incident #T150050062.

This is the first bicycling fatality in Southern California this year.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for Rose Peters and all her loved ones.

Thanks to Zak and new BikinginLA sponsor Michael Rubinstein for the heads-up. 

 

Update: The holiday bloodbath continues — teenage bike rider killed in Rialto

Word is just coming in that a young bike rider was killed in a Rialto collision this evening, the fourth SoCal cyclist to die in the last three days.

According to the Press-Enterprise, the collision occurred around 5:40 Monday evening near the intersection of Riverside Avenue and South Street; police found the victim on the sidewalk in front of 335 S. Riverside Ave.

He was unresponsive and suffering from major injuries when police arrived, and died after being taken to a local hospital.

The paper identifies the victim only as a juvenile Hispanic male; other sources that aren’t available online yet give his age as 13.

The paper reports the driver remained on the scene and is cooperating with investigators; alcohol is not believed to be a factor. Which could mean that the driver was sober, or had not consumed enough to be intoxicated.

No other information is available at this time, and no word on how the collision occurred.

This is the 85th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the 11th in San Bernardino County. It’s also the first cycling death in Rialto in the last four years.

And hopefully the last.

Update: The victim has been identified as 16-year old Ryan J. Martinez of Rialto. 

According to the Press-Enterprise, Martinez was riding near his father’s home on a new bike he’d just gotten for Christmas. He was reportedly going the wrong way on Riverside when he was hit head-on by a northbound car. 

He died one day after his mother’s birthday. 

My deepest sympathy and prayers for the Ryan Martinez and his family and friends.

36-year old bike rider killed in Fountain Valley collision; third Southern California bike fatality in three days

Then there were three.

After going a full 30 days without a bicycling fatality, three Southern California bike riders have lost their lives in the past three days, as a rider succumbs to injuries suffered in a Fountain Valley collision on Saturday.

According to KTLA-5, 36-year old Westminster resident Vinh Tran was riding south on Brookhurst Street at Heil Ave when he was struck by a Jeep driven by William Joseph Klein of Santa Ana.

Tran was taken to a local hospital with life-threatening injuries, where he died earlier today.

He was reportedly riding next to the curb when he was rear-ended by Klein. A street view shows three southbound lanes on Brookhurst, with right turn lane near Heil; it’s possible Klein may have been attempting to make a right turn when he ran into Tran.

Then again, it’s also possible Klein may not have been in control of his vehicle, since he was arrested on suspicion of being under the influence of a prescription drug. He was taken into custody on Saturday on suspicion of felony DUI and gross vehicular manslaughter, and is being held on $100,000 bond.

Anyone with information is urged to contact the Fountain Valley Police Department at 714-593-4484.

This is the 84th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the 19th in Orange County; that compares with 12 in the county last year. It’s also the second cycling death to occur on Brookhurst in Fountain Valley in the last three years, just 2.6 miles apart.

My deeper sympathy and prayers for Vinh Tran and all his loved ones.

81-year old cyclist killed in San Bernardino rear-end collision

After going nearly a full month without a bicycling fatality anywhere in Southern California, we now have two deaths just days apart in the Inland Empire.

According to the San Bernardino Sun, 81-year old San Bernardino resident William Francis Easley, a well-known business owner, philanthropist and political leader was killed while riding his bike early this morning.

Easley was riding with another cyclist just after six am when he was struck by a car on the 1000 block of E. Lynwood Ave. His riding partner, a local physician, immediately began CPR, but Easley died after being transported to Loma Linda University Medical Center.

The paper reports both riders were using rear flashers and reflectors in the early pre-dawn hour, and that Easley was wearing a helmet; however, it does not note whether he suffered a head injury.

More details come from the Riverside Press-Enterprise, which clarifies that the riders were struck from behind while headed west in the right lane on Lynwood. A satellite view shows an extremely wide right lane; however, it’s likely there were cars parked along the curb at that hour, which could have forced the riders into the traffic lane to void the door zone.

The unlicensed driver remained at the scene and reportedly cooperated with investigators.

Easley was an experienced rider, according to the Sun, and would regularly ride with a small group of cyclists.

He had started his career as an accountant, and had gone to own a chain of business interior companies, as well becoming involved in restaurants and real estate, and had been active in local politics.

His death comes just two days after another rider lost his life in Riverside; prior to that, it had been a full month since the last fatal bicycling collision in Southern California.

This is the 83rd bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the 10th in San Bernardino County; he is also the sixth bike rider to lose his life in the city of San Bernardino in just the last three years.

My deepest sympathy and prayers to William Easley and all his loved ones.

Thanks to Mark Friis, Executive Director of the Inland Empire Biking Alliance for the heads-up.

 

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