Portola Valley cyclist struck, killed on Skyline Boulevard
• Confusion leads to delayed reporting.
The life of Thomas Colby Maddox came to an untimely end Saturday, July 15, after the Portola Valley resident and cyclist was struck by a car three days earlier while cycling with a longtime friend on Skyline Boulevard in Woodside, just north of Highway 84.
Mr. Maddox, 65, a former economics professor at Foothill College, died at Stanford. Information as to the cause of death will be released after the completion of an investigation into the accident, a coroner's office spokeswoman said.
The Almanac's reporting on the story is delayed by a week and relies mainly on witness accounts because the reliability of accident reports filed by local police agencies seems to have suffered from a disruption in the normal police investigative and reporting process.
The reports from the California Highway Patrol and San Mateo County Sheriff's Office differ in several key respects, including the color, make and model of the vehicle that struck Mr. Maddox; the date of the accident; and the extent of Mr. Maddox's injuries.
The accident happened between 11 and 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, July 12, on Skyline Boulevard about a 0.6-mile north of the intersection with Highway 84, said Tom Strand of Los Altos, a friend of Mr. Maddox for about 37 years and his cycling partner that day.
The two men were traveling southbound on the two-lane road in a section with a steep bank but no shoulder or bike lane, Mr. Strand said. They were just emerging from a series of S turns on a slight downhill grade and moving at the "speed of traffic," about 30 mph, he said.
Mr. Strand said he was about 50 yards ahead of Mr. Maddox when he "heard a crash, like somebody dropping a tray full of dishes." He turned back to find Mr. Maddox splayed in the road, his helmet still on, and two cars pulled over.
The vehicle that hit Mr. Maddox was a blue Subaru Forester driven by Redwood City resident Beverly Oaks, 81, said CHP Officer Steve Perea.
Stacy Binns, a resident of San Mateo who was driving about two car lengths behind Ms. Oaks, told the Almanac that she witnessed the collision.
Mr. Maddox was occupying about one-third of the lane when the Subaru "sped up a bit and went to pass (him) on a curve with a double-yellow line," Ms. Binns said. The Subaru "shot back in before she passed Tom, and she sideswiped him and went right into him," she said.
"I don't think he knew she was coming," Ms. Binns said. There was no traffic coming from the other direction, she said, but she had planned to pass the cyclist near the intersection of Highway 84, where there was more room.
"It was a horrible, horrible accident," she said. "It just didn't make any sense. It shouldn't have happened. I think about him every day. It's heartrending."
At the scene, Ms. Binns said she sent her daughter to find a resident with a land line to call 911 after attempts to use a cell phone failed due to bad reception.
Ms. Binns, Mr. Strand and Ms. Oaks all waited at the scene for the CHP to arrive, said Ms. Binns.
Mr. Strand said an ambulance came after about 30 minutes and medics drove Mr. Maddox, who was reportedly unconscious, to Stanford Hospital. Plans to use a helicopter fell through because the nearest one was too far away, Mr. Strand said he was told.
Mr. Maddox was bleeding from the mouth, nose and ear, Mr. Strand said. He said he adjusted Mr. Maddox's head slightly to allow him to breathe.
Damage to Mr. Maddox's helmet indicated an impact just behind his left ear, Mr. Strand said, adding that he was told by the physician at Stanford that Mr. Maddox died of as a result of head injuries.
The CHP and the Sheriff's Office split duties when it comes to patrolling Skyline Boulevard, with the CHP handling traffic enforcement and the Sheriff's Office taking on all other law enforcement duties, such as crimes.
Deputies from the Sheriff's Office arrived in minutes, said Lt. Ken Jones. Firefighters and medics responded quickly, as well, said Capt. Rob Lindner of the Woodside Fire Protection District.
But on that morning, the Redwood City office of the CHP was on reduced duty to commemorate an officer who had recently died. Their patrol duties were being shared by the San Francisco and San Jose offices.
The nearest available CHP officer was about 30 miles away and took 45 minutes to an hour to get to the scene, said Officer Perea of the San Jose office.
By the time the CHP officer arrived, the scene had been cleared, Mr. Perea said.
"I was surprised about how little (the law enforcement officers) asked me," said Ms. Binns. "It was a deadly accident."
The CHP initially reported that Ms. Oaks was driving a white Toyota and that the accident occurred on July 15.
The Sheriff's Office report had Ms. Oaks in a charcoal minivan, leaving the scene of the accident and driving over Mr. Maddox; it also stated that his injuries indicated "some bleeding (but) nothing serious."