Sunday, March 09, 2008

County Sheriff Hits and Kills Two Cyclists

It is a far worse day than I thought.  

I just found out two of my training partners from Five Rings Cycle Center were killed and a third rider who I have ridden with several times this winter was seriously injured.

Kristy Gough, a professional triathlete and member of Third Pillar, a friend and training partner, was fatally injured.  

Matt Peterson, Roaring Mouse Cycles, was fatally injured.

Christopher, a young European professional from Germany training this winter on the Peninsula, suffered critical injuries.  Sounds like broken arm, leg, and ribs.

I am out of town but it sounds like these riders, who train with my coach, were on a ride around Stevens Creek Reservoir when the Sheriff crossed the center line and hit them.  This is our usual route to Hwy 9.  Several witnesses heard the officer remark that he must have fallen asleep.

These three and one other strong rider had broken away from the rest of the training group. The fourth rider became fatigued and was about 30 seconds behind the others going around the reservoir. When he rounded the bend by the quarry he saw the aftermath of the accident. There was nothing he could do for Matt. He kept Kristy alive until the paramedics and life flight arrived.

So far this is the most informative article I have found:

Two bicyclists were killed when a Santa Clara County sheriff's patrol car crossed the double-yellow line on Stevens Canyon Road in Cupertino and hit a group of riders shortly before 10:30 a.m. Sunday.

The crash on a beautiful Sunday morning left the local cycling community and the sheriff's department shaken.

"It's just horrible," said Mike Riepe of San Jose, after hauling his mountain bike up a trail near the crash site.

The opportunities for hill climbing and downhill coasting along Stevens Canyon make the road tempting for cyclists. So on Sunday morning four cyclists training for an event decided to give the hills a shot. The group collided with the deputy's car while the deputy was on a routine patrol in the area, Sgt. Don Morrissey said.

Coming around a corner, near a straight-away, the deputy accidentally crossed the center line and struck the group. He called for help and immediately began CPR on one of the fallen cyclists, Morrissey said.

Two cyclists, a 29-year-old San Francisco man and a 30-year-old Oakland woman, died. A 20-year-old man was seriously injured, CHP officer Todd Thibodeau said. The fourth rider was not hurt.

Sunday's accident rattled the whole department, Morrissey said. The deputy involved in the crash will be placed on administrative leave until the investigation is complete. He's been on the force for about a year and half.

"He's taking it very hard," Morrissey said. "The whole department is saddened."

Fatal crashes are rare for the sheriff's department, even though deputies often drive as many as 200 miles in a single shift, Morrissey said.

The last fatal crash involving a sheriff's patrol car happened in 1994, when a deputy trying to keep a suspect from running struck and killed the man near the intersection of West San Carlos and Bascom Avenue. The deputy was cleared of wrongdoing.

On a good weekend, thousands of cyclists cruise the winding road leading to Stevens Creek Reservoir, said cyclist Steve Paterson, 49, of Cupertino, as he was turned away from a road block near Ricardo Road set up because of the crash.

"There are so many rides up here," he said. "Club rides, sponsored rides, groups of friends."

It's unclear whether the cyclists involved in the crash were riding as part of larger group, Morrissey said.

Local cyclists noted that riders in large groups will sometimes ride two-abreast. The practice is not illegal but can be extremely dangerous on narrow, winding roads with a large amount of traffic.

It was unclear if the cyclists involved in this crash were doing so, Thibodeau said. But cyclists said they've seen dangerous behavior from those on both two-wheels and four.

"I've seen bicyclists who ride crazy," Paterson said. "And I've seen cars that go too fast."

In 1996, cyclist Jeffrey Steinwedel, 46, died on Stevens Canyon Road just up the road from Sunday's crash when a quarry driver struck him as he took a winter ride. The driver, Jon Nisby, was sentenced to a year in jail.

The CHP is asking anyone who witnessed the crash to call (408) 467-5354, ext. 337.


X Bunny said...

so very very sorry

bbElf (a.k.a. panda) said...

Thank you for the additional info. What a huge, tragic mess.