Update: CHP investigators mum on key details of fatal truck-bike accident

Cyclist Lauren Ward not at fault in her death, CHP says, but questions remain

Investigators for the California Highway Patrol have now concluded that Lauren Ward, 47, of Los Altos Hills was not responsible for her death on Nov. 4, 2010, in a collision with a tractor trailer truck on westbound Alpine Road at Interstate 280, but the CHP's statements offer slight evidence as to what led to that conclusion.

At the time of the accident, CHP Officer Art Montiel said that the front of the truck was undamaged. His latest statement does not contradict that, but he notes "... the truck and bicycle came into contact with the left front portion of the truck colliding with the right rear portion of the bicycle, while the bike was still in an upright position."

The original speculation -- due to the lack of evidence of front-end damage and because no witnesses have come forward -- held that Ms. Ward had turned into the left side of the truck cab, perhaps because she got hemmed in between the truck and a vehicle heading into Ladera.

How that speculation last November changed to the conclusion in the CHP's Sept. 15 statement is not made clear, but investigators from the CHP's Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team did say that they found human DNA under the truck "near the front axle," Mr. Montiel said in an interview.

As to what exact surface of the undercarriage the DNA was found on, and on which side of the truck, Mr. Montiel said he did not know, adding that he has not seen the full report.

He did say that investigators could not confirm that the DNA found near the axle belonged to Ms. Ward. The investigators did not elaborate, he added.

Asked why the investigators could not explain their trouble identifying the DNA, Mr. Montiel replied: "They are explaining it, but not to me. That will be available once they decide to release the report."

The CHP is required to issue a full report to the relatives of the victim, and the details may come out in court. Ms. Ward's relatives launched a wrongful death lawsuit in January against the trucking company, Randazzo Enterprises Inc. of Castroville, and the driver, Gabriel Manzur Vera.

The current report is final and the investigators have concluded their work, Officer Montiel said.

Investigators did not make a determination of fault in the accident, primarily because of the lack of witnesses, Officer Montiel said.

Ms. Ward died at the scene of the accident. The truck driver no longer drives, according to the CHP, this having been his third accident that resulted in a fatality.

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Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Sep 20, 2011 at 8:45 pm

So CHP Officer Art Montiel is giving interviews on the subject but he hasn't seen the full report? They are in full spin-control mode, but doing it badly. One can only believe that had the victim been driving a car instead of riding a bike, this would have developed very differently.

Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 20, 2011 at 8:51 pm

I'm not sure it would have developed very differently, but I think the CHP should ONLY issue a final report.

Interim reports are not useful and can be destructive.

Like this comment
Posted by Dave Boyce
Almanac staff writer
on Sep 21, 2011 at 9:29 am

Dave Boyce is a registered user.

A point unintentionally left out of this update: the CHP has concluded its investigation and the report as it is now is final, according to Officer Montiel.

Like this comment
Posted by john slater
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 22, 2011 at 6:53 am

So the driver ran into the back of the bicyclist and claimed he never saw the cyclist; and he never got a citation of any kind!

At least we have a civil justice system.

Like this comment
Posted by Huh?
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 23, 2011 at 11:40 am

Aloysious, every news report I've read, including the Almanac's, have said he was involved in three fatal accidents: two -- only two -- with cyclists, and one with a car whose driver crossed the center line and hit the truck. Do you know something the rest of us don't?

Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 23, 2011 at 3:02 pm

Yes, this truck driver had two fatal accidents with bicycles, one fatal accident with a car.

Like this comment
Posted by some guy
a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2011 at 8:49 pm

The guy just ran over the bicyclist because he wasn't paying attention. It's really strange that the authorities have decided to give the guy a pass. He must have some sort of connections.

Like this comment
Posted by pedestrian in traffic
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 24, 2011 at 8:30 am

Huh, POGO just has a compulsion to mention the fatal accident with the car without mentioning that that car crossed the center divider and crashed against the truck because of his bias . The Truck driver was the victim of a that accident, not the agent of it . Is this clear?

Here is the report"
"Vera was involved in a head-on collision with a female motorist on Highway 1 seven years ago on New Year’s Eve. According to CHP records, he was driving through Moss Landing when a vehicle driven by Annette McDaniel, 53, struck his truck head-on.

The Monterey County Coroner’s Office reported that McDaniel had been weaving in and out of her lane and crossed the center line before colliding with Vera’s large truck. She was killed in the crash."

Like this comment
Posted by Cindy
a resident of another community
on May 11, 2012 at 2:42 pm

This is the most tragic cyclist story. Clearly, Lauren was a very experienced and safe cyclist and not at fault. The truck driver, however, had killed two other people previously and was *still* driving. See anything wrong here?

The whole incident is skewed because of corporate lawyers and existing predjudices against cyclists. Fortunately, the family pushed by suing, forcing CHP to reopen the case and come to a different conclusion. See anything wrong with this?

When and where is the hearing? I am also a 47-year old cyclist and mother who bikes that road several times a week so this hits very close to home. I also know several cyclists who would like to be there to be there in support of Lauren's family and/or testify.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 11, 2012 at 5:20 pm


This is done and over with. The other accidents in which people were killed, the driver was determined to be not at fault. In one case in Santa Cruz, the cyclist ran into the side of his truck. In another on Highway 1, the dead driver crossed into the trucker's lane and hit him head on. Hardly makes him a "terrible" driver. Unless, of course, other peoples stupid maneuvers aren't their fault.

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

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