News


12:50 a.m. crash on Middlefield kills Palo Alto man

Paramedics pronounce still-unidentified man in his 20s dead at scene, at Middlefield Road and Hawthorne Avenue

A Palo Alto man died early Saturday morning when his car smashed into a tree and a parked vehicle. The roadway was wet and slick as the man in his 20s drove south along Middlefield Road into Palo Alto at about 12:50 a.m., police said.

His vehicle first struck a sign on the west side of the street, then slammed into a tree and ricocheted off a parked vehicle before coming to

rest in the front yard of a home near the intersection of Middlefield Road and Hawthorne Avenue, according to police.

Arriving police officers found the driver, who was the vehicle's sole occupant, with what they say were very serious injuries. Palo Alto fire

paramedics pronounced the man dead at the scene.

The driver's identity had not yet been released and is pending notification of his family, according to the medical examiner's office.

Members of the Palo Alto Police Department's Specialized Traffic Accident Reconstruction team and the Santa Clara County medical examiner's office are investigating the crash.

Alcohol has not yet been ruled out as a factor in the crash, and police said the medical examiner's office will determine if the driver was under the influence.

A representative from the medical examiner's office said that those tests will commence on Monday, but it could be several weeks before

they can draw a conclusion.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 18, 2010 at 12:06 pm

Another tragic accident this holiday season. I am sorry for his loved ones.

We saw a police car and stopped traffic in that area, but it was yesterday afternoon, as we turned from Middlefield onto another street. I am sure the weather this weekend and next week will bring news of more accidents.


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Posted by slow down
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Middlefield Road is 25mph. Would this fatality have happened at 25mph?


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 18, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Unfortunate. Good thing no one else was harmed, especially if alcohol was involved.


Like this comment
Posted by homegirl
a resident of another community
on Dec 18, 2010 at 4:20 pm

You all are mean. He may have swerved to avoid an animal, or person in the road. Some people really know how to put the mental into judgmental.
A man lost his life. May he rest in peace.


Like this comment
Posted by slow down
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2010 at 5:26 pm

This crash comes just hours after the near fatal crash on San Antonio Road. Speed appears to be a factor in both crashes. This is not the fault of the police or the trees.

Drivers need to learn to slow down on dark wet roads. The speed limits are the maximum. In wet conditions, an even slower speed may be appropriate. If tough talk is needed to teach our young drivers a lesson, then so be it. I hope that others will speak up before we have another fatality.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 18, 2010 at 6:32 pm

Home girl is a much nicer person than I am, because while I'm sad he's dead, I'm relieved no one else was hurt AND I wonder about the possibility that alcohol and/or drinking were also factors.

Today, I couldn't believe the speeds people were driving on Embarcadero. It's a residential street, people! the cop's shoulda been there, giving out tickets - they would've cleaned up. I know not everyone is as cautious as I am in the rain, but really, is 40 necessary in a 25, on a wet, busy day? The moronic drivers will join their brethren in the morgue if they're not more careful.


Like this comment
Posted by MadMax
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 18, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Very sad. Walked around the accident seen this morning. He hit a fairly heavy-duty sign just north of Hawthorne; you could see the tracks leading up to the sign, where his car had jumped the curb. His car then traveled over the sign, through the intersection and you could see fairly significant chunks taken out of the tree (so this guy had to hit a fairly sizeable curb, not immediately brake, hit a heavy-duty sign, then off the curb into the intersection, across the road and then hit the tree with enough force to take some chunks out of the tree).

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Would be nice to know from the police whether speed was involved, whether this guy had on a seatbelt, etc., especially given we are always walking or riding bikes in that area with kids.


Like this comment
Posted by Jennifer
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 18, 2010 at 7:17 pm

Homegirl, it is sad, but as we live in this area, as we walk along the sidewalk this person went up and over, as our kids ride their bikes on that sidewalk nearly every day, we are trying to assess whether this was the result of an out of control driver, driving at a high rate of speed and/or under the influence, or whether this guy was obeying all laws, driving 25mph, swerving to avoid something and crashing into a tree (where if the later scenario were in fact the case, we would push to make that area much safer than it currently is).

As it stands, as MadMax indicates, there is no suggestion that this person swerved to miss something, because in the dirt leading up to the sign that was run over, you can clearly see the tire tracks, but no skid-like marks one would expect to see in the dirt if somebody were braking hard. Normally when you swerve to avoid an object you more or less immediately brake hard. There doesn't appear to be any evidence that this person braked hard. Further, there is at least 50 feet between where this person's car hit the first curb and the tree. As MadMax points out, braking hard after hitting the first curbe almost surely would have completely stopped the car before hitting the tree, if this person was going only 25mph.


Like this comment
Posted by Big A
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 19, 2010 at 11:10 am

CottageGal- may he rest in peace, indeed.

But don't be too suprised to find that others are concerned about what happened, and not simply due to selfish reasons.


Like this comment
Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 19, 2010 at 11:24 am

This is not to draw conclusion from this particular crash, as I don't know what caused it, but I have noticed, for the umpteenth time, that despite rain, poor visibility and wet and sleek roads, drivers are going way too fast and many don't bother to turn their headlights on, despite the rain and poor visibility. I was driving on Page Mill Rd this morning, and although the underpass near Cal. Ave. was flooded and it was pretty dark, some cars were driving with their lights off and very, very fast. California drivers in general have absolutely no idea how to drive safely in bad weather. Terrible driving all around.


Like this comment
Posted by anon
a resident of Meadow Park
on Dec 19, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Just a few quick things:

First off, the poor kid died in the middle of the holiday season. Regardless of how it happened, have some heart.

Second, if he struck an immobile object like a tree, even if he was going 25 mph the results could have been fatal. There have been fatalities in crashes that occur as slow as 5 mph. You can't judge somebody and accuse them of speeding when a crash can have so many different factors. If he lost control, hydroplaned, and hit the tree on the driver's side, he could have easily suffered a fatal brain injury.

Despite that, people need to know to SLOW DOWN in the rain. Everybody speeds on roads like Embarcadero and Middlefield, and in conditions like these, it's dangerous to the drivers, the other people on the road, and the pedestrians. Let's not suffer any more losses in this holiday season.


Like this comment
Posted by slow down
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 19, 2010 at 12:48 pm

It is NOT TRUE that "everybody speeds on Embarcadero and Middlefield". Many many people drive legally and safely. The police really need to crack down on reckless drivers on our residential roads.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 19, 2010 at 1:06 pm

I am one of the few that doesn't speed on Embarcadero or Middlefield & I avoid both whenever possible.

I don't think it's Calif drivers who are so bad - we have many "outsiders" who moved here & their driving abilities SUCK. I am a native of Calif, as are my family members & we are all careful drivers. I am really tired of people, espec in their SUVs, speeding, no lights in the rain, endangering everyone. If they want to endanger themselves, it's their choice, but the selfishness of the self-important driving is inexcusable because they endanger so many. I see the same thing in EPA, Menlo, MV.

I think the lack of skid marks in this accident is telling - & frightening.


Like this comment
Posted by slow down
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 19, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Mr. Hmmmm, I think you are wrong about who are the bad drivers. "Outsiders" often come from the midwest or eastern USA where the weather is much worse and thus they have training and experience in these conditions. The California fair weather drivers are the ones who freak out with the least bit of water on the ground. And don't forget who invented the "California stop", which is one of the most dangerous driving maneuvers.


Like this comment
Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 19, 2010 at 3:05 pm

I'm a California native and I know that there are plenty of bad drivers who came here from other parts of the US and the world, but California drivers are just the worst bad weather drivers I know of. Driving way too fast during weather conditions such as today, sudden stops on wet, sleek roads, not turning on their lights when visibility is poor and the rain coming down. There were vehicles speeding with their lights off on Oregon Expwy at 7 this morning, when it was still quite dark and the rain was coming down. This is nothing less than idiotic and potentially murderous driving. I have witnessed very dangerous driving in countries like Greece, France, Israel and Italy, to name a few, but not during bad weather. California drivers are absolutely the worst bad weather in the world.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 19, 2010 at 3:11 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by Marie
a resident of Portola Valley
on Dec 19, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Regardless of the cause, this accident is a terrible tragedy for the young man's family and friends.

I wonder how many of those who are so quick to judge him and to surmise he was drinking/speeding, are completely innocent of having done one or other or both. Remember when you were young and foolish?

Anyone who has driven with even one drink or has driven over the speed limit, could have met the same fate--if indeed alcohol or speed caused this accident. Remember, before you are so quick to judge, there but for the grace of God go you.


Like this comment
Posted by slow down
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 19, 2010 at 4:20 pm

Yes, there are speeders and drunk drivers who haven't killed anyone. Calling them out is one way to get them to quit before they do kill someone.


Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 19, 2010 at 6:39 pm

California drivers are worse than in the midwest - I was amazed at courtesy I experienced when driving there (admittedly not in the downtown of any major cities) but STILL!!!


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 19, 2010 at 10:04 pm

@anonymous: I lived in Minnesota for 20 years in a suburb. Three times cars drove towards me in he wrong direction because they were on the wrong side of the island. My car was rear-ended by a person not noticing there was a red traffic signal. Moving along to the Twin Cities, people drove too fast on the freeways and tailgated and did not easily let others merge or change lanes. Driving on the freeways here is peaceful in comparison.

California drivers are much more polite - merging is not a problem, people don't tailgate, and more than half of them wave when I allow them to merge.


Like this comment
Posted by friend
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Dec 19, 2010 at 10:42 pm

Those comments are so hard to read for those who are friends and family...


Like this comment
Posted by anonymous friend
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 19, 2010 at 10:45 pm

Although his ID is not public, the driver's friends and family were notified yesterday. While we don't know what caused the accident, some of the comments appear to be assuming that alcohol, speed, or both were involved. Without more information, these are just assumptions which may not be true. I would just like to remind everyone that a real person died, and his friends and family are reading what you write.


Like this comment
Posted by compassion
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Dec 20, 2010 at 6:32 am

I understand you all trying to make sense of this. As someone who knows people who are close to this amazing young man, and are devastated, I have to say that as we do not know cause (and yes, maybe it matters to prevent future things), but as we don't know, and maybe that's not the point, we do know that he was a good, thoughtful person. I am so sorry for his family and friends. I know he is being missed.


Like this comment
Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 20, 2010 at 8:07 am

Resident, if you think California drivers are polite, you obviously never drove in the Los Angeles area or on the 880 . Polite or not, California drivers absolutely, positively don't know how to drive in bad weather, as they don't adjust their driving method and speed to the conditions outside. One of the worst aspects of this is their lack of awareness to the fact that when it's storming/foggy/dark during the day, a driver MUST turn his/her headlights on. Even in the summer, during mornings of dense Tully fog when visibility is near zero, I am consistently shocked by dark vehicles suddenly materializing out of the dense fog without their lights on.


Like this comment
Posted by HeardIt
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 20, 2010 at 9:13 am

I heard the accident, but did not see the accident until after. I heard the car driving south on Middlefield. There was only one car coming south, and no vehicles going north. I don't know how fast the car was going. I would guess between 30 and 35+ mph. I don't think the car was going over 40 as there was no sound of slipping tires as the car came around the curve on Middlefield. Also, there was no sound of braking. There was no loud music, there was no yelling or scream. Then there was a sound of metal on metal with a jutting staccato. Very fast jarring sound. That was apparently when the car hit the traffic sign. The next sound didn't sound like tires on the road, but a big whopping, thudding sound. About 5 seconds later (perhaps longer), there was a sound of a vehicle on Middlefield driving over a big piece of metal. Then shortly after that, when I looked out the window, I saw a police vehicle heading north on Middlefield, and turning on the police flashing lights.

On Middlefield we often hear cars coming south around the curve going very fast, hear the tires lose their grip, whether wet or dry pavement. The vehicle that crashed didn't have that super-fast sound. Not saying he was going 25, I'm not an expert, but he wasn't racing another vehicle (there was only one on the road), and it didn't sound to me like he lost traction or sound like he attempted to brake.


Like this comment
Posted by patient
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 20, 2010 at 10:34 am

Everybody sure loves to speculate, and everybody is an expert apparently. How about just waiting until the police release their report then you can armchair quarterback and cast judgments? Both activities are patently absurd and mean-spirited prior to the facts being released. Rest in peace.


Like this comment
Posted by His friend
a resident of Southgate
on Dec 20, 2010 at 10:46 am

For those of you who are quick to judge....This young man was a close friend of mine, a brilliant international visiting scholar at Stanford, has volunteered around the world to help poor countries and was an amazing person and friend to hundreds of people. He is so sadly missed by so many people! Please don't be so quick to judge others. Regardless of the cause it remains a huge tragedy.


Like this comment
Posted by Chris Kenrick, Palo Alto Weekly Staff Writer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 20, 2010 at 11:33 am

To His Friend and others,

We would like to learn more about this young man. Please contact me at ckenrick@paweekly.com, 650-326-8210 or 650-868-8634. Thank you.


Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 20, 2010 at 11:37 am

May he rest in peace and his family receive the comfort and support they will need.

Please, everyone, recognize this board as an opportunity to show care and compassion. Please show wisdom in your posts; it can make such a difference to those who are struggling because of this loss of a loved one. It helps to imagine what it would be like for you reading this board if you were a family member or friend who just lost someone dear to them, and then to post accordingly.

Thank you.


Like this comment
Posted by Sat-bad weather-and sorry
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 20, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Thank you neighbor, homegirl and compassion and the others who wrote with compassion.
I was driving on Middlefield on Saturday night earlier than this accident. The weather conditions were horrible. I drove slowly and feared someone might hit my car as I was driving so slowly. And though I have been here in P.A. for more than 30 years, with those conditions I actually lost my sense of direction.
Now probably someone will post with something negative to say about what I am writing- oh well. The point I want to make is that we do not know all of the details- and regardless of what they were- the weather made it very difficult to drive, and it would have been easy to lose control of the car.
My sincere condolences go out to this fellow and his family!!


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 20, 2010 at 12:37 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by homegirl
a resident of another community
on Dec 20, 2010 at 1:14 pm

The focus of this forum should be to express sadness and condolences. I've seen so much anger, speculation and general dis concern (disconnection) for this persons loved ones. All anyone seems to be concerned with is laying blame. This young person could have been anyone. It doesn't matter because he is gone. It only matters to the people he loved and those that loved him. He is in a different place right now probably knowing what all you folks are writing. Shame on you people who think they can speculate, thus defacto passing judgement.
Congratulations, Shallow Altans. Once again you are deserving of the nickname.
RIP.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 20, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Why was my posting deleted? Because my priority isn't to drip w/sorrow over this unfortunate death? Homegirl, you don't dictate the purpose of this forum. I am not judging your posts, except to say you don't dictate what others should think, postulate & post here. A more appropriate place to post condolences would be an online memorial for this young person, something his loved ones can read, treasure & draw comfort from.

It's normal, expected & actually prudent to wonder, opine & speculate about the cause of the accident, to be relieved no one else was injured & to have informed opinions, based on our experiences, as to what contributing factors may have been. No one is saying he deserved to crash or anything ridiculous like that. Please quit trying to dictate how/what we should thing & write about. This forum is for expressing opinions, not just memorializing the beloved dead.


Like this comment
Posted by homegirl
a resident of another community
on Dec 20, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Hey- I didn't delete or report your post. See, anger everywhere. All of your posts, although speckled with sadness, have a negative message in them. From speculating about alcohol, moronic drivers, foreign drivers, the certainty of other serious accidents that you can lay judgement upon on or pontificating about the lack of skid marks. How many skid marks have you seen in the middle of a storm? Only ones that were laid down before the roadway was wet. It is provable. Try it and see. Or do a little research.
Better yet, wait for the report to surface. Based on experience, the determining data will not be released for about 4-8 weeks. Oh, AND it probably won't be available to the public, so we may never know.

I agree with most of the posters here. Regardless of what happened in this, or any other crash (like the one Friday on San Antonio), the message is clear-Slow Down in wet and stormy weather.


Like this comment
Posted by pragmatic
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 20, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Exactly, Hmmm. Homegirl, I sure hope that the friends and family of this man are dealing with their grief in a more personal setting. This forum is a place where people can discuss and analyze events, and most of us don't know (or don't know that we know) the people affected by this accident. The contents of this thread are not much different from any of the other threads that have dealt with catastrophes.

I realize that some of the speculation could be upsetting to his family, but it's hard for me to understand why they are bothering to read this forum. They know what happened; we don't. Surely they must have better things to do than to allow the comments of strangers to cause them distress?


Like this comment
Posted by Hermann
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 20, 2010 at 3:12 pm

12:50am!

Could it have been that he fell asleep and his right foot just kept pushing the gas pedal? The steering wheel motion? Your guess is as good as mine.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 20, 2010 at 9:02 pm

Thanks, pragmatic. I also strongly oppose censoring the opinions of people who don't know the deceased, when they have a right to speculate about dangerous situations which could have injured or killed others & they're posting in the appropriate place. I hope his family or community can have a virtual memorial online, especially since he is reported to have a wide network of loved ones.


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

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