An 82-year-old man who died while driving his car on U.S. Highway 101 in Menlo Park on Friday was likely struck by debris that came off a state-owned truck, a Caltrans spokesman said.
The man, identified as Louis Schaefer of Mountain View, died after being struck in the neck by what appears to be a large metal screw-on nozzle cap that came off the back of a Caltrans water truck, Caltrans spokesman Myeast McCauley said.
The cap came off the back of the truck, which was traveling south in the far right lane near Willow Road, somehow flew across several lanes of traffic and broke through Schaefer's windshield as he was driving in the northbound fast lane, McCauley said.
These kinds of caps are usually secured by a metal chain, McCauley said, and it's still unclear how it got loose.
After being struck, Schaefer struck the center divider before
eventually coming to a stop. No other vehicles were involved.
Since the accident, Schaefer's family has been besieged with interview requests and issued a brief written statement today in the hope that those requests will stop, said family friend Barbara Feder Ostrov.
"We are grieving the loss of our father. He was a brilliant electrical engineer who spent most of his career at SRI International in Menlo Park," the family statement said. "Family members will not be holding a press conference or giving interviews. We have no further comment at this time and ask that our privacy be respected."
The family also praised the drivers who stopped to try to help Schaefer and thanked the California Highway Patrol and the San Mateo County coroner's office.
The CHP investigation into Schaefer's death is still underway.
"Caltrans offers its deepest condolences to Mr. Schaefer's family and friends," McCauley said.