Fatal crash with bicyclist is second for truck driver


The Nov. 4 fatal collision of a bicyclist with the left side of a tractor-trailer at the Alpine Road/Interstate 280 interchange was the second time in a little over three years that the driver and that truck had been involved in such an incident.

In August 2007, a bicyclist died as a result of a collision with the right side of the truck at an intersection in the city of Santa Cruz. In the Nov. 4 incident, the collision was with the left side.

In both cases, the driver of the truck was Gabriel Manzur Vera, 44, who was driving for the same employer: Monterey-based demolition contractor Randazzo Enterprises.

In the Nov. 4 incident, Los Altos Hills cyclist Lauren Perdriau Ward, 47, died after colliding with Mr. Vera's truck as he was headed onto the southbound I-280. Investigators from the California Highway Patrol have not yet determined what happened.

"That's very unfortunate, same driver, similar situation," CHP Officer Art Montiel said in an interview.

In the Santa Cruz incident, a video originating either from a surveillance or street camera showed that Mr. Vera was not at fault, Mr. Montiel said. A call to the Santa Cruz Police Department has not yet been returned.

The family of Ms. Ward is apparently considering legal action and has retained San Francisco-based attorney John Feder, of the firm Rouda Feder & Tietjen.

In a brief interview, Mr. Feder said it was clear that Mr. Vera had been inattentive in the 2007 incident and that the ensuing lawsuit, which ended in a settlement, proved it. "His sworn testimony under oath indicated that he was, in fact, at fault," Mr. Feder said.

The new case will look at whether this accident was preventable, Mr. Feder said, but noted the importance of the CHP determining what happened.

Witnesses, if there are any, have not yet come forward, Mr. Montiel of the CHP said.

The fact that Mr. Vera was involved in a similar accident in the past does not automatically trigger an investigation into his driving habits, Mr. Montiel said. If he had been found at fault in 2007, then investigators would look for similarities.

In the Nov. 4 incident, the truck was found to be in its own lane and preparing to make a right turn onto the freeway; investigators found nothing to indicate a leftward turn into the cyclist, he said.

Does the configuration of this particular truck warrant special precautions? "There's really only so much (drivers) can do," Mr. Montiel said. Cyclists and operators of other small vehicles should take it upon themselves to make sure they are seen, he said.

The signs commonly found on trucks, "If you can't see me, I can't see you," should be taken seriously, he said.

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.


Like this comment
Posted by Gunste
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Nov 16, 2010 at 12:24 pm

The Nov 4 accident was between the left side of the truck and the cyclist. - A possible explanation of the event would be that a passenger car tried to overtake the truck and squeeze onto the ramp ahead of it. The might have forced the cyclist into the side of the truck. - The possible offending driver would never come forward. No one behind them on busy Alpine Road??? Don't want to get involved???

Like this comment
Posted by Swimfin
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 16, 2010 at 1:10 pm

I also find it hard to believe there were no witnesses to this tragedy. I run through this intersection a couple of times a week and there are always multiple cars & bikers at the stop signs or in the intersection.

Like this comment
Posted by janet
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 16, 2010 at 7:36 pm

At that time of day there are literally hundreds of cars coming from Stanford to I-280 in part because of shift change at the hospital. It is not credible that there are no witnesses. The entire length of Alpine from Junipero Serra to I-280 is unsafe for cyclists, pedestrians and residents (a) because the bike lane is inadequate on the northerly side and poorly maintained (b) the speed limit is too high given all the cul de sacs and driveways along the road, (c) there is virtually no enforcement by sheriff or CHP, and (d) tractor trailer trucks have no business on that road with all the blind curves, the cautionary speed signs, and the fact that it is a residential area. There are frequent accidents of various sorts and local residents have been complaining for YEARS to the county, the city of Menlo Park and the CHP

Like this comment
Posted by Rebecca, cyclist & driver
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on Nov 17, 2010 at 12:58 pm

I live down the street from where this tragic collision took place, and as I was getting ready for my ride along Alpine rd just now, I had to stop and comment on this first, because Randazzo may STILL be employing and allowing Mr. Vera to drive that big rig, and many others still don't seem to "get it". Please, drivers and cyclists, parents of teenage drivers, children of older parents who drive, business owners employing drivers, and everyone else, please take 10 seconds to remind yourself and your loved ones that using public roads is EVERYONE'S right equally, BUT DRIVING on those roads is a PRIVILEGE that can be taken away (and should have been for Mr. Vera). Nothing good could ever come out of driving while distracted or impaired for you and for others. Remind yourself that we ALL must own the responsibility when using public roads to drive safely, and we ALL must SHARE those roads. Ask yourself if that call, text, email, etc. is really worth what COULD happen regardless of what you think the likelihood of it happening is.
Now, I will take the same route my fiancé and I have ridden for years, west on Alpine road, under the 280 underpass, through to Portola Valley, etc., and I will continue to be a careful and courteous rider like most of us are, but if anyone else fails to do their part and causes injury or death to me or someone I care about through their negligence, there will be dire consequences to pay for the pain and havoc wreaked on my life and my loved ones' lives. To be very clear, I DO NOT wish any of that on anyone (especially myself). I simply wish to continue to enjoy the privileges and rights I have as a safe cyclist and driver, but I hope more people will finally "get it" and take the responsibility seriously. It doesn't matter if you get lucky and somehow you were able to be found "not at fault". You and everyone will still know you weren't driving safely. You and everyone will still know you killed someone's son, friend, teacher, mother, sister, wife, leader. If you feel like rebutting and/or spewing garbage or rude comments to this, first be honest and ask yourself if you aren't so defensive and angry because you really know that you were at least partly to blame for that close call or anger from the other driver/rider.

Like this comment
Posted by Dave Ross
a resident of Portola Valley: Brookside Park
on Nov 17, 2010 at 1:59 pm

I have not read or heard an explanation of the evidence that shows Ms. Ward collided with the left side of the truck. I am familiar with construction equipment (and the trucks that haul it), and regularly ride my bike through that same intersection. I do not believe, without seeing some very good evidence, that the collision occurred the way the investigators have claimed.

After several near misses of my own, I can say that it is perfectly "normal" for drivers to try to beat cyclists to that southbound on-ramp. Sometimes I think those drivers (probably not fit cyclists) underestimate the speed and acceleration of a cyclist starting up from that stop sign and planning to go straight up Alpine. And sometimes the drivers are very clearly venting some frustration at the cyclist's presence (at least that's my conclusion based on what they yell as they jam by).

Last Sunday I did have a confused/incompetent/dangerous driver pass behind me right there, into the southbound on-ramp lane, only to change his mind and swerve back into my lane in front of me. He just missed me and the solid divider that would have wrecked his car ... and I bet he cared more about his car than me.

Without seeing the physical evidence, though, I will continue to believe that the truck driver on Nov. 4 tried, unsuccessfully, to pass Ms. Ward on her left before merging over to the on-ramp.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 17, 2010 at 3:22 pm


How is it you seem to know that the driver of the truck is at fault in this accident or was at fault in the prior accident. He was cleared in the previouos accident and no determination has been made in this case. It is possible he was no more at fault than the driver of a vehicle that hits a pedestrian that darts out from between parked cars. You have nothing on which to base your conclusion.

Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 17, 2010 at 4:05 pm

I agree with Menlo Voter. Bad things can happen to people through no fault of their own.

There's no reason to jump to conclusions as to the reliability of statements from experienced investigators.

Like this comment
Posted by Rebecca
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on Nov 18, 2010 at 12:09 am

@ Menlo voter and Joe: You are absolutely correct that bad things can happen to people through no fault of their own, which seems to be forgotten by the many who have tried to blame the victims here. The victims cannot tell their side of the story-because they're dead. A video camera cannot tell me what Myslin's intentions were that day or that Myslin was trying to pass a truck on the right- especially since that is where we cyclists typically have to ride- to the right! Perhaps he was riding along with a decent amount of speed but the big rig slowed down to make its turn therefore making it appear that Myslin was going fast in an attempt to pass the truck- we'll never know because we can't ask Myslin.
I have kept an open mind and even asked others not to rush to judge in my earlier posts in the SJ Mercury right after Mrs. Ward was killed. I had an open mind even after reading about Mr. Vera's driving record and the other cyclist killed while Mr. Vera was behind the wheel of that same big rig in 2007, and I still have an open mind even after I read
"Police said he was at fault in the crash that killed Myslin."
in the Santa Cruz Sentinel's online article by Shanna Mccord updated at 7:42pm Nov. 16, (I pasted it below with its link).
Nowhere did I state that I "concluded" anything was his fault. I stated he shouldn't have a license to operate that type of vehicle, and I am shocked that Randazzo risked allowing him to get back behind the wheel of it.
I also read that Mr. Vera wasn't cited in the 2007 fatality nor in "many" of the "numerous accidents" he's been in, and this evening I read about a third fatality he'd been involved in, and I still have an open mind. I also still think he shouldn't have a license to operate anything other than a fishing pole, and only if supervised, until someone can explain how it is he finds himself involved in all these fatalities and other numerous accidents.

From the Santa Cruz Sentinel retrieved from: Web Link
"Randazzo and Vera agreed to contribute insurance money in exchange for release of all claims and a dismissal of the lawsuit, according to the May 2008 civil case in Santa Cruz County Superior Court.

The Myslin's attorney, David Dibble of Eureka, said in court documents that the case was "for damages they sustained as a result of the death of their son."

The California Highway Patrol has not determined who was at fault in the crash that killed Ward. No witnesses have come forward to describe what happened, CHP Officer Art Montiel said.

Vera was apparently driving the same truck in both collisions, Montiel said.

According to Department of Motor Vehicles and court records Vera has received at least two moving violations and has been in numerous accidents - many of which he was found not to be at fault - over the past 12 years.

Police said he was at fault in the crash that killed Myslin. The more recent fatal crash, which occurred Nov. 4 on Alpine Road and appears to have involved the same truck, remains under investigation.

When reached by phone on Tuesday, Vera declined to comment on his driving history.

According to court records, Vera received a speeding ticket in 1998 in Fresno County. Though specifics of the incident weren't clear in a check of court records, the citation Vera received applies to certain vehicles, including trucks with three or more axles or any motor truck pulling another vehicle.

Vera also received a ticket in 2008 related to driving a commercial vehicle in a fire area in Santa Cruz County, according to DMV records.

DMV records also indicate Vera was involved in three accidents between 2003 and 2007 - not including the fatal accident - in which he was determined not to be a fault. The records didn't make clear whether Vera was using a commercial vehicle in those incidents, which occurred Dec. 31, 2003, in Monterey County; Dec. 8, 2004 in Monterey County; and Nov. 12, 2007 in Monterey County. There was also record of a 2002 crash in Santa Cruz County in which fault wasn't determined.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 18, 2010 at 6:55 am


how do you reach the conclusion Vera shouldn't have a license because he's been involved in a number of accidents WHICH WERE NOT HIS FAULT? The fact he has been cited is not big news either. He drives for a living. He's on the road a lot more than you are. That is why profesional drivers are allowed more points on their license before it is suspended. Have you ever received a ticket? The fact that he settled in a lawsuit is not news either. People who are not at fault do it all the time, because the settlement costs less than trying to defend against it. Like I said, you are jumping to conclusions about Vera and wether or not he should be driving. The DMV doesn't seem to think his driving is a problem. If they did they would revoke his license.

Like this comment
Posted by Rebecca, Cyclist and Driver
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on Nov 18, 2010 at 1:23 pm

@ Menlo Voter:
With all due respect Menlo Voter, you are the one jumping to conclusions, and you are in fact wrong. 1. Your first response to my post stated that I had nothing to base my conclusion on, when in fact I proved I did and pasted the link for you to see for yourself. In fact, the Almanac's article we are posting to now states,
"In a brief interview, Mr. Feder said it was clear that Mr. Vera had been inattentive in the 2007 incident and that the ensuing lawsuit, which ended in a settlement, proved it. "His sworn testimony under oath indicated that he was, in fact, at fault," Mr. Feder said."
2. You stated, "He's on the road a lot more than you are." How do you know that? How did you reach that conclusion? You do not know the first thing about me, and if you did, you wouldn't have said that, because in almost all of my former positions I was in fact driving 90% of the time, and even over HWY17 for two years from Santa Cruz to San Leandro, Oakland, SF, etc. daily and guess what, NOT A SINGLE TICKET OR COLLISION PERIOD! I was a road warrior, and I NEVER KILLED ANYONE- and want to know another fact? There are many, many big rig drivers that have CLEAN driving records WITH ZERO FATALITIES!!! I know, because I worked for a TRUCKING COMPANY!!!
3. Your comment "The DMV doesn't seem to think his driving is a problem. If they did they would revoke his license." You actually are stating that the DMV as an organization "thinks", which lends itself to far too many jokes to count, but the big problem is again YOUR conclusion that since the DMV didn't revoke his license he should still by fine to drive. There are thousands of people out there driving who shouldn't be, and they will continue until (if ever) they are caught doing something enough times to get the points required to get their license revoked. DMV isn't like a review board that monitors its cases periodically and then makes an informed decision as to whether or not revoke a license.
Again, with all do respect Menlo Voter, its your right to defend Mr. Vera and his actions and anyone else you chose, but you can stop wasting your time by telling me I am jumping to conclusions, because as I stated above and clearly illustrated with three examples, YOU sir, are the one jumping to conclusions based on knowledge that you simply do not have.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 18, 2010 at 8:31 pm


and what knowledge praytell do you have of Mr. Vera other than what you have found on line? The statement of an attorney that sued him? Yeah, I place a lot of weight on that one. You think maybe he has an axe to grind?

You are right about a lot of people being on the road that shouldn't be, but you need to address that with the state. They determine who is able to obtain a drivers license. Believe me, I put 35000 miles a year in driving, I know. Unfortunately, just because someone has accidents or tickets the state has determined that until it reachs a certain point people still get to drive. The problem is that if the requirements for driving were changed to what you and I think are appropriate half the people on the road now wouldn't be.

Finally, I am not defending Mr. Vera. I have simply stated you don't know him or what occurred in this accident to make an informed opinion. Whith all due respect.

Like this comment
Posted by Disgusted
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Hills
on Nov 19, 2010 at 11:25 pm

Are we waiting for "three Stikes"? Whose going to be his next victim? Deemed guilty or not, he's been involved in one-too-many fatalities. Either lock him up or Get this guy a desk job and keep him off the road.

Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2010 at 7:56 am

Just because the CHP found him "not at fault" does not mean that he didn't do anything wrong, or that he is a good driver. It just means that they didn't have enough information. These investigations are really farces if there are not other witnesses. The DMV is underfunded and overloaded and can barely keep up with handing out licenses to people who pass minimal tests, let alone investigate and revoke licenses for people who are dangerous behind the wheel. All this just goes to show that we are unwilling as a society to hold drivers strictly accountable for the consequences of their behavior.

Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2010 at 4:14 pm

It appears that the bicyclist might have swerved while riding next to the truck, and people are saying that in that case it must be the bicyclist's fault and the driver is not to blame. What if a piece of debris came off the truck and struck the bicyclist, causing her to swerve, or landed in front of her front wheel and deflected it? Would you still claim that the bicyclist was 100% at fault? We seem to think it is acceptable for people to drive as if they are the only one on the road, leaving no margin for error. Then when something goes wrong the CHP acts like there is nothing that could have been done to prevent it. There is a lot that could have been done to prevent this. I think we should hold drivers to a higher standard, especially professionals driving large ponderous, dangerous vehicles. Starting a half mile before the intersection the driver should have seen her because he should have been paying attention to everyone else on the road. He should have known that she would need to move to the left because she could not go on the freeway and that their paths would cross somewhere before the on ramp. Even if she moved into a blind spot he should have been tracking her and known she was there. At the stop sign he should have known that if he started in the usual fashion the two would be in close proximity for some distance, and he should have waited to let her get ahead of him. Then no debris or wind blast from his truck could make her swerve, and if she swerved on her own he would not kill her. Of course this requires attentiveness, forethought, patience, prudence, courtesy and a willingness to put safety first. We don't require or even expect that of our drivers, and tragedies like this are the result.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 20, 2010 at 5:35 pm

Do you have some information to indicate the bicyclist wasn't at fault? Didn't think so. What you have is a whole bunch of hyperbolic supposition.

Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Nov 21, 2010 at 8:10 am

What I have is a less simple-minded view of safety and responsibility. Perhaps the bicyclist swerved, but that should not be a death sentence and would not have been if the truck driver had been more prudent. Imagine that you build and operate a factory with unguarded moving machinery and a very narrow walkway for your workers. One day a worker stumbles and is caught in the equipment and killed. Would you say the worker was at fault for stumbling and say that there was nothing you could have done to prevent this freak accident? Believe me, OSHA would not think so. You would be in very deep trouble for such a negligent approach. Why is it that we take such a different attitude towards safety on our roads compared to in our work places?

Like this comment
Posted by pedestrian in traffic
a resident of another community
on Nov 21, 2010 at 8:29 am

There no victims of the truck driver in the first 2 incidents. The car driver that died was swerving in and out of her lane and crashed into the truck head on. How was the truck driver responsible for the behavior of MS. McDaniel? On the second crash, as videotaped the truck driver wasn't deemed not at fault.
Donald wants every driver, even more the truck to have GUESSED Mrs. Ward's possible movements and what she intended to do next. That is humanly impossible if only because a driver of any vehicle has to follow a multitude of inputs from other road hazards and the humans on the road. But on a larger point every driver of any vehicle is responsible for his/her own actions only. What we can and should do as drivers is to follow road rules and try avoid no- fault imponderables.
Truck drivers spend at least 8 hours on the road every working day- involvement in 2 accidents without fault and the 3rd we don't know yet, is streak of good luck stats. In their pathological need to blame drivers for anything that happens to a biker (even an incident of biker road rage was deemed to somewhat having been provoked by the mere existence of an innocence driver who happened to be nearby) some look as if they are either dimwitted to absurdity, or simply lack reasoning standards. I am leaving out the possibility that they are doing this out of sheer bad will or an ideological agenda.

If we want to stamp out or decrease the number of incidents or/and fatalities in encounters with trucks we must do so by analyzing accidents to better determine what can be done. But nothing can be done about these matter if all road users fail to use common sense and/or don't follow rules.

Like this comment
Posted by pedestrian in traffic
a resident of another community
on Nov 21, 2010 at 8:49 am

As a pedestrian ran over by a bike coming at me from the wrong direction and against the red light (I had the green) I would say I wasn't at fault in any way, though the biker's immediate tune was to blame me for being as he said "on my way" and tried to leave without so much as to see if I was hurt. I also would say I wasn't at fault when a truck crashed into me on rt 92- it came 6 feet into my lane. I was lucky I wasn't crushed and the accident was witnessed by an officer driving behind me. At another time, a car coming from the left tried to turn right into my lane and crashed into me. Again, I was not at fault at all. I don't drive much, but was involved in 3 accidents all of which I was rendered blameless by the law and the insurance companies.
Being involved in an accident specially in 20 years of driving 8 hours a day, is not a sure sign that we drive or walk badly. I'm with Menlo voter. I don't know enough.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 21, 2010 at 9:56 am

"Perhaps the bicyclist swerved, but that should not be a death sentence and would not have been if the truck driver had been more prudent."

Donald: you simply do not have the information necessary to make this statement. Were you there? did you witness this accident? No? Then how do you know the driver was acting in an imprudent manner? You don't. You just have supposition, as I said before.

Unfortunately, inattention by a bicyclist can result in death and not just from a collision with a vehicle. It's just a fact of life. If someone were to dart out from between two parked cars and you hit and killed them would you consider yourself imprudent? Didn't think so.

Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Nov 21, 2010 at 12:20 pm

The point is that fault and responsibility rarely lie 100% with one party, but that is the way people treat traffic collisions. The truth is that there are often 2 or even 3 mistakes, each of which would be harmless by itself, that when combined at the same time lead to a collision. The cops can pick one party and assign them 100% of the fault, and claim everyone else is blameless, but that is generally not realistic.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 21, 2010 at 2:38 pm


I am ex-law enforcement. As such I have investigated hundreds of traffic accidents. I would have to say that 90% of the accidents I investigated there was one person at fault. Insurance companies love to spread responsibility around, but as I said, rarely is the cause of the accident the responsibility of more than one person.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

All your news. All in one place. Every day.

After experiencing harassment, owner of Zareen's restaurants speaks out about Islamophobia, racism
By Elena Kadvany | 28 comments | 6,979 views

Don't Miss Your Exit (and other lessons from an EV drive)
By Sherry Listgarten | 13 comments | 2,351 views

Goodbye Food Waste!
By Laura Stec | 7 comments | 2,258 views

Good News: The New Menlo Park Rail Subcommittee Hits A Home Run
By Dana Hendrickson | 12 comments | 1,542 views

Premarital and Couples: Tips for Hearing (Listening) and Being Known
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 767 views


Register today!

On Friday, October 11, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

Learn More