Tag Archives: cyclist fatality

11-year-old killed in crosswalk collision

An 82-year old motorist turning left onto Union Hills from 15th Avenue struck and killed an 11-year old girl riding in the crosswalk on August 5, 2010. The girl was heading southbound on the west side (i.e. going with the flow of adjacent traffic).

Names have not been released, Phoenix Police officer “Martos said the woman was not impaired and likely will not be charged. Police are still investigating.”

I’m not familiar with this area or intersection [google maps], though Union Hills Dr appears to be a typical Phoenix “car sewer”; 5 lanes of rush rush.

The mechanics of the collision are very similar to Maxwell v. Gossett, where the Arizona Supreme court found for the cyclist, and against the motorist who was turning through the crosswalk. If anything, this is a stronger case for the bicyclist, given the direction.

The so-called “left cross” is a common mode of collision; Bradley Jason Scott [tbagblog] was killed on Tempe a few weeks ago in a left cross (but not involving a crosswalk).

[azfamily][arizonarepublic][kpho] The kpho piece says in part that “police are trying to determine if she was riding the crosswalk or in the street, because, police say, it is illegal to ride in a crosswalk…”

Where does such patently false, mis-information come from?

Is it legal to ride in a crosswalk?

Setting aside the issue on the relative merits of sidewalk cycling…

By way of some more background on the legality of cycling in crosswalks; an analysis prepared by the Tuscon City Attorney’s office in 1998 found that (my emphasis) “…it is apparent that under the present state of law in Arizona a bicyclist is not prohibited from riding on or across a crosswalk…”.

It’s worth pointing out that this conclusion was reached in Tucson where it is patently illegal to cycle on the sidewalk. I am not aware of any Phoenix ordinance that affects crosswalks, thus we would fall back to the same cases and Arizona statutes analyzed in the above memo.

That being said, saying something is not prohibited is not the same as saying that the car driver must be automatically at fault, e.g. “the court held that bicyclists must still exercise due care and concern for their safety while about to enter or in the crosswalk”.

Please see Sidwalk Cycling in Arizona for more details and references, especially Maxwell v. Gossett.

The Police Report

This is adot incident 2414621 and Phoenix Incident number 10001096939 [I had gotten the number off by a digit from phoenix traffic records, I may have written it down wrong, in any event that caused a large delay in analysis. Victim Madeleine Pila Driver: Marguerite Savarese.

The ACR is available from the city of Phoenix online, there is presumably a DR as well available from Records but I do not have that.

The narrative in its entirety is succinct and very descriptive:

Traffic unit 1 (pedalcyclist) was riding her bicycle southbound in the crosswalk on the west side of the intersection of North 15th Avenue and West Union Hills Drive. Traffic unit 2 (vehicle) was making a left hand turn from northbound 15th Avenue to westbound Union Hills Drive. Unit 2 collided with unit 1 in the marked crosswalk. As a result of the collision, the operartor of unit 1 was pronouced dead at the collision scene by responding paramedics


Note that in Arizona, “Unit #1 is the vehicle, pedestrian, pedalcycle or animal rider that caused the collision or was most at fault” (refer to ADOT AZ Crash Manual; links here), there is no provision for assigning units in any other way. To do so destroys the usefulness of statistics in the ADOT crash database (ALISS). If police are going to do this, it should be corrected before submitted for final inclusion in the database — was this done? It’s not clear; but given that the driver was never cited for any infraction (according to case lookup), it appears the investigation results stand as initially entered.

Though there would seem to be no confusion in assigning fault, the cyclist was for no apparent reason listed in Block 20, Violations/Behaviors  “13. Failed to keep in proper lane”. This is nonsensical. From the narrative the cyclists should have been assigned “1. No Improper Action”. See Maxwell v. Gossett for further verification that the cyclist was doing nothing whatsoever wrong in riding through a crosswalk.

Though there seems to be no confusion about what the driver did, the driver was listed in Block 20, Violations/Behaviors  “16. Inattention/Distraction”. That may well be true, however, it is apparent from the narrative that the driver committed a “7. Made Improper Turn”

In short, the driver was most-at-fault, and should have been assigned unit number 1 along with the violation/behavior noted above, and should have been cited (according to court records, the driver was not cited).

There is also an apparent error on the ACR but doesn’t affect the outcome, Block 14 Type of intersection is marked as “12 (Controlled Access Area) Intersection Related”. The intersection is not in a controlled access area (a.k.a. a freeway interchange) and should presumable be “2 Intersection Related”.

The ADOT Database Record

This is IncidentID = 2414621  In addtion to what was described above as errors done by the investigating officer on the ACR (and signed off on by a supervisor), the following errors and inconsistencies were noted in the ADOT crash database record:

  • AlcoholUseFlag: 1 (but that is not supported by the report?)


Why does Phoenix Get it Wrong, and why does Scottdale get it right?

I have no idea. I have informed Phx PD VCU at least twice (once while the investigation was still supposed to be open, and again in May 2012 when I reviewed Phoenix fatalities). They have steadfastly refused do the right thing; claiming their mis-handling of crosswalk cases is ” based on a sound and experienced understanding of the law along with the guidance of Department, City, and County Attorneys”. Their conclusions appear to directly contradict Maxwell., and indeed those I’ve contacted seem to have never even heard of it.

Consider the case of a 12-year-old boy in Scottsdale struck while proceeding straight in a crosswalk who was struck and seriously injured by a left-turning driver. This is exactly the same configuration as the Pila fatality. However Scottsdale PD not only cited the driver for a bad turn, but also charged him with 28-672, a misdemeanor. Phoenix rewards dangerous, inept drivers with NO_IMPROPER_ACTION while Scottsdale punishes them with criminal charges.

So, apparently Phoenix’s city attorney or Police Department knows something that Scottsdale’s doesn’t, or vice-versa. And of course the County Attorney is one-in-the-same (I mean: Scottsdale and Phoenix are both in the same county); and of course the same state laws exist in both cities — there was no mention of any city codes in the Pila report. I don’t believe any of it, I’m willing to guess no attorney ever reviewed it (I mean for citations; i imagine the case received perfunctory review for negligent homicide charges)

Botched LAPD investigation

This has many of the similar elements of botching as PPD above, the belief, not based on any law, that it’s somehow illegal to ride in a crosswalk, soapboxla explains:

On Monday, June 1, 2009 at approximately noon, a woman rode her bicycle on the sidewalk of Louise Avenue in the valley. As she approached the intersection of Valerio she rode into the intersection on an unmarked crosswalk. At the same time a large truck approached the intersection on Valerio and proceeded to turn right onto Louise. The cyclist and the truck collided, she fell to the ground and the truck crushed her head as she lay on the street.

…But especially disturbing is the resulting confusion during the investigation of the incident and the confusion over “the rules of the road.”

Councilman Smith’s office responded to the incident the next day and explained, via email, that “the bicyclist was reportedly riding on the wrong side of the roadway and traveling against the traffic flow; making her the initial “primary cause” of this tragedy.” The email went on to detail the law enforcement experience of Councilman Smith, Chief of Staff Mitch Englander and Public Safety Deputy Jim Dellinger.

The LAPD’s Public Information Officer confirmed the report that the LAPD considered the cyclist the “primary cause” of the incident because she was riding a bike in a crosswalk which is a violation of CVC 21200 which requires a cyclist to obey the rules of the road. The PIO explained that a cyclist must either dismount at crosswalks or ride on the right side of the road with traffic.

The legal statues, codes, and ordinances are detailed at bicyclelaw.com’s blog — they happen to be analogous to Arizona’s state statutes and Phoenix’s ordinances.


Driver Sentenced: Bullhead City cyclist killed in hit-and-run

Larissa Jean Castilleja
Larissa Jean Castilleja

Larissa Jean Castilleja, 43, a Bullhead City High teacher was killed Sept 9, 2009 when a driver hit her and fled the scene.

This fatality bears many similarities to several of four recent fatalities in the Phoenix-metro area this past summer.

  1. the automobile driver hit-and-ran (all 5 incidents)
  2. DUI on the part of the automobile driver is suspected (at least 4 of the 5 incidents)
  3. time of day was overnight/early morning (ranging from 10pm to 4am)
  4. no improper actions on the part of the cyclist are suspected (all 5 incidents)

The suspect was later charged with manslaughter and leaving the scene, on Sept 28 he plead not guilty; and according to the Mojave Daily News, has secured himself  all-star Scottsdale DUI lawyer Scott Maasen. In granting the reduced bond, the judge expressed reservations and then … did it anyway! It was also revealed in that story that the defendant has an outstanding warrant for DUI in Nevada, which he says he is not aware of.

The Plea

The defendant plead guilty to manslaughter, leaving the scene, and DUI. Sentencing is scheduled for May 21, 2010. Case number S-8015-CR-200900986, online lookup.


The [mohavedailynews] had a pretty good rundown of the sentencing:

Judge Steven Conn sentenced Gagliardi to prison for 13 years for both felony crimes (8 for the manslaughter, 5 for hit-and-run), saying the two charges were separate crimes and deserved consecutive sentences. He only found a lack of criminal record as a mitigating factor and that Gagliardi also had about 20 moving violations, mostly for speeding. He found aggravating factors that Gagliardi’s blood alcohol rate was more than twice the legal limit and the emotional harm to Castilleja’s family. The judge also said he hoped the sentences would be a deterrent to people who visit the casinos and drink then get into their cars to drive home.

see also [kingmandailyminer].

Continue reading Driver Sentenced: Bullhead City cyclist killed in hit-and-run

Driver found guilty: South Phoenix Hit-and-run

7/11/2009: location listed only as “South Phoenix”,  in the early morning hours of Saturday,  hit-and-run. Police apprehended Max Ramiro Garcia, 33, in an unrelated traffic stop (speeding). ( azcentral.comKPHO). was charged with manslaughter and leaving the scene in the death of cyclist Robert Flakes; Superior Court Case Number CR2009-145409 case minutes Continue reading Driver found guilty: South Phoenix Hit-and-run

ASU student dies in collision on University

ASU student Christopher Volpe, 24, was killed Monday 5/10/2010 when he collided with an SUV. According to police, the driver of the SUV was not at fault. No impairment is suspected. According to this news account: “Police tell 3TV the man was in the eastbound lane of University near Ash”.

According to the ABC15 account: “Police Sgt. Steve Carbajal said 24-year-old Christopher Volpe was apparently traveling west on University Drive when he turned left in front of oncoming traffic and was struck by an SUV.”

I did get some clarification from Molly Enright, Community Affairs Specialist at the Tempe Police Department — the correct information is as Sgt. Carbajal said. [The ADOT crash database, see below, indicates both units were going straight ahead on perpendicular paths, and that the cyclist disregarded a signal. Directions given: West/driver (University Ave), South/cyclist (Ash St). I do not have the crash report]

The turning left in front of the SUV doesn’t seem to add up; given the location of the pictured damage. From the picture, it appears the cyclist t-boned into the middle of the passenger side of the SUV.

So I am still confused?

And by the way, as the commenter pointed out, below, southbound Ash vehicular traffic must turn at University — though it’s not clear if that has anything to do with it.

A couple of the accounts say that “Police have determined that he (the driver) was not at fault” — that was fast.

In the wake of this tragedy, Tempe’s First Ghost Bike was placed. [azrepublic] story on the ghost bike installation.

2010 Arizona cyclist fatality grid

[azrepublic] [azfamily/3TV][evtrib][abc15]

Crash Reports ASDM / FARS

This is ADOT incident 2414578. Summary of ADOT database entries: Fatal collision at a signalled intersection. Both units are GOING_STRAIGHT_AHEAD in perpendicular directions. The driver has NO_IMPROPER_ACTION with “contributing cirumstance”: GLARE_SUNLIGHT.
The cyclist has his position given as “CROSSWALK”, and is faulted for DISREGARD_TRAFFIC_SIGNAL. The driver suposedly has damage to his FRONT_RIGHT, with his GOLD, FORD, PASSENGER_4DSW_STATION_WAGON_4_DR given as disabled, but I’m not confident that data was applied to the correct unit.

Supposedly, the driver tests positive for cocaine, and the cyclist positive for marijuana, but (again) I don’t have confidence in the proper application of these data.
[TODO: check FARS database for drug test result]

This is FARS case 40292

Scottsdale cyclist’s death shows problems with law

ADOT Incident=2335885
Both units were eastbound; the road is a very fast, 2 through lanes each direction with a small (<2′ ?) open shoulder.
Of note, newer street views show this area was reconfigured sometime between 2011 and 2015, now has a substantial, I mean substantially wider than what was there at the time of this incident. Maybe four to five feet. Still open (no curb or gutter).

The Arizona Republic today ran a heavily researched article concerning the death of Cindie Holub in Scottsdale in February. It also delved into some comparative history into other strike-from-behind cases.

[also, here is the original AZ Republic story about the death]

Continue reading Scottsdale cyclist’s death shows problems with law

[verdict] Fatality in Tucson — driver was reportedly “weaving”

[Verdict April 12, 2010] The driver who killed Drake Okusako plead guilty, and received a 4-year prison sentence. “On March 1 he (Segebartt) entered guilty pleas before Pima County Superior Court Judge Deborah Bernini to the leaving the scene charge and a reduced negligent homicide charge” Continue reading [verdict] Fatality in Tucson — driver was reportedly “weaving”

Motorist Pleads to Manslaughter in Cyclist Death on Maricopa Road

Michael Gray (Michael Gordon Gray), 43, died Sunday April 12, 2009 when a suspected impaired driver killed him at 3PM traveling along Maricopa Road nearby the access road to the Koli Equestrian Center. GRIC (Gila River Indian Community) police say they suspect the motorist may have been under the influence.

Here is near where the collision occurred. Maricopa Road is a fast (posted 50MPH) two-lane rural highway — one narrow lane in each direction, there is a shoulder stripe and perhaps a foot or so of irregular asphalt and lots of gravel

In the several months that have passed, I am looking for updates on the status of the investigation. From what I gather, sometimes but not always, serious crimes on the reservation go to federal jurisdiction, see e.g. Sacaton man gets 27 years in killing of Gilbert bicyclist (more detail in the DoJ press release). Here’s some more explanations, see “Role of Gila River Indian Community Justice System”, from meeting minutes of the Arizona State, Tribal, and Federal Court Forum.

2009 AZ Cyclist Fatality Grid

Criminal Case

I spoke with Sgt. Hilario Tanakeyowma of GRIC PD (GRIC PD main number — I had some difficulties finding this — (520)562-7139, x7122). in mid-March 2010 and he confirmed that the defendant is in custody and was charged with manslaughter.

Case is  CR2009-007876 in Maricopa County Superior Court, all case minutes . Strangely, when I looked this up in mid-March, the case was sealed for some reason(?). In any event David Allen Wiechens, Sr. plead guilty to manslaughter. Sentencing is scheduled for April 30, 2010. This carries a presumptive sentence of 10.5 years (13-704 , dangerous, non-repetitive). On April 30, for unknown reasons, sentencing was “continued” to 06/18/2010 at 8:30 a.m.

Sentencing then did occur on 6/18, minute entry here. (I had missed this bit about a prior felony: “reflect one prior felony conviction and not zero”). Defendant was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay $8,019.28 restitution to the victim’s parents, and his driver’s license was revoked.

Aftermath: The defendant’s PCR was not granted and seems to have been exhausted as of 6/18/2013. There’s a minute entry in early 2011 noting that “restitution as previously
ordered by the Court has been paid in full by Defendant’s insurance company”. Wiechens apparently passed away (presumably while incarcerated?) sometime around 2015.

Arizona Crash Report

This is ADOT incident=2290572. I don’t have FARS data loaded up for 2009.

I obtained a copy of the full crash and departmental report # 09-14619 from GRIC PD. The report written by Officer M. Evins appears to be of very high quality, with several lucid pages of narrative and witness statements. The manner of collision is not at all what I had imagined. There were three cyclists traveling together; but they were not physically together. They were each separated by ~ 50 yards, and they were all riding to the right of the fog line, on the very small paved shoulder. Wiechans passed the first two without incident, after passing the second cyclist he inexplicably swerved sharply, thus striking and killing Gray. Wiechan’s statement was that he saw two cyclists only and then heard a loud bang. There were many witnesses; in addition to the two cyclists who were not struck, the driver and passenger of a car traveling behind Wiechens also saw the whole thing. Wiechans, up until the fatal swerve, did not appear to be driving erratically, according to witnesses behind him. There is a hypotheses put forward by the investigating officer about the fatal swerve: “It is believed that David (Wiechans) was drinking from the open Bud Light bottle while he was driving and possibly spilled it in his lap when the collision occurred because I observed a fairly large wet spot in the right groin area of his pants”.

Other issues: according to the report the vehicle involved was purchases just a few days before the crash; and that it had no insurance. The investigating officer found an “…Admin per se suspension in the open center console dated 1/2/09 at 2032 hours at a location in PCSO’s jurisdiction with BAC results of .171 and .164 which was impounded as evidence”.  In addtion to GRIC PD, a DPS Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) was called in, and blood was drawn.Though alcohol was clearly involved, the suspect was not apparently particularly drunk, though other impairment was suspected. Any results are not in the crash report — but presumably figured heavily into the criminal case. Continue reading Motorist Pleads to Manslaughter in Cyclist Death on Maricopa Road

Phoenix police seek ID of bicyclist killed in hit-and-run

A cyclist was killed in Phoenix Friday night; this area is west of the airport and just north of I-17. The victim was later identified: “Phoenix Police Sgt. Trent Crump said 70-year-old Lorenzo Nevares was riding on 7th Avenue just north of Interstate 17 when he was struck around 8:30 p.m” [abc15]

The approx location: On 7th Avenue near Mojave Street, just north of I-17. Continue reading Phoenix police seek ID of bicyclist killed in hit-and-run

Green Valley cyclist killed

the Arizona Daily Star is reporting a fatality in Green Valley (near Tucson),
Green Valley cyclist, 84 killed in vehicle collision.

It is very unusual for police (in this case the Pima County Sheriff’s Office) to cite immediately. The normal pattern in fatal collisions (see e.g. Allen Johnson) is nothing gets issued, a lengthy investigation (most of elapsed time is due to waiting on tox results)  is conducted, after which the prosecutor declines to file criminal charges, and finally traffic citations are issued. Will there be no further investigation? Seems hasty. Entry at tucsonbikelawyer.com also see zero-citations-so-far-for-three-foot-passing-rule-in-tucson-this-year for interesting facts about just how rare citations for 28-735 are.

There was a nice article about Jerome in the Green Valley News, interesting discussions about criminal negligence at tusconbikelawyer.com

The case was settled for only $254 in fines, covering two citations, according to the GV News “David Armstrong, 76, of Green Valley, pleaded responsible to ‘overtaking bicycles – fatal,’ and ‘driving in the bike lane’ and was fined $140.50 and $113.50 respectively”. No word as to why the fine for violating §28-735 , which carries a fine of “up to” $1,000,  was settled for far less — not that it really makes much difference, but after all what’s the point of having enhanced penalties for more serious outcomes if the judge/magistrate doesn’t apply it? It was Case number TR-20091755 in Green Valley Justice court.

I have no idea how the fines are arrived at. The fine schedule according to the list for ddp (but defensive driving school isn’t an option, I’m just using it to look up court fees), for Green Valley is $120 court fee plus $40 state fee. Perhaps that is where the $140.50 comes from? Which I suppose means the “enhanced” part if it is $0.

Here is a google maps street view of N Desert Bell Drive. It appears to be a full-up bike lane; albeit with “old” bike lane signs and the diamond markings. the street view when I checked it in March of 2012 was dated April 2008, so I don’t know if it’s been updated with the new MUTCD 2003 signs/markings.

2009 AZ Cyclist Fatality Grid

By Alexis Huicochea
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 09.03.2009
An 84-year-old bicyclist died this morning after he was struck by a car in Green Valley.
Jerome Featherman was riding south on North Desert Bell Drive, near West Calle de Oro, at 9:38 a.m. when a motorist drove into the bike lane and hit him, said Deputy Dawn Barkman, a Pima County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman.
Featherman was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead, she said.
The driver of the car – David Armstrong, 76 – was given a citation on suspicion of violation of the three-foot passing rule causing death and driving in a bike path.
The three-foot passing rule states that when passing a bicycle that is going in the same direction, a motorist has to leave a safe distance between the vehicle and the bicycle of not less than three feet until the vehicle is safely past the bicycle.