A man who died early Saturday when his car hit a tree and parked vehicle on Middlefield Road has been identified as Rune Thode Nielsen, the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner's office confirmed Tuesday (Dec. 21).
Nielsen, a Danish national from Copenhagen and visiting scholar at Stanford University, who studied nanotechnology, was a resident of the St. Claire Gardens neighborhood.
Nielsen "had a huge network of friends," a source said. His family has been notified.
He studied nanotechnology at Stanford Microsystems Laboratory and was doing research on passivation for piezoresistive cantilevers under Beth Pruitt, the principal investigator and associate professor in the department of mechanical engineering, according to the university's website.
Nielsen was pursuing a Master of Science/Engineering degree in physics and nanotechnology.
In 2009, he received a Bachelor of Science/Engineering degree in physics and nanotechnology from the Technical University of Denmark and a Graduate Certificate in business administration from Copenhagen Business School.
He came to Stanford in March to complete a masters thesis, Lisa Lapin, assistant vice president of university communications, said.
"It is always tragic to lose someone brilliant and dedicated to making a difference in the world. We are very sad, and the people in the international community on campus are particularly devastated. He was very well liked," she said.
The campus will be planning a memorial service after the new year, when everyone returns, she said.
The crash occurred Saturday morning (Dec. 18) at about 12:50 as Nielsen, 25, drove south along Middlefield Road into Palo Alto, 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.
Will Carter, who lives on the corner of Middlefield and Hawthorne, said the car appeared to have veered from Middlefield onto Hawthorne after hitting the street sign. It then struck a tree on Hawthorne on the driver's side and spun around to face east. The car also flattened a portion of the fence in front of the house where Carter lives.
Arriving police officers found Nielsen, who was the vehicle's sole occupant, with what they say were serious injuries. Palo Alto fire paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene.
Members of the Palo Alto Police Department's Specialized Traffic Accident Reconstruction team and the Santa Clara County medical examiner's office were investigating the crash.
Alcohol had not been ruled out as a factor, and police said the medical examiner's office would determine if the driver was under the influence.
A representative from the medical examiner's office said those tests commenced Monday, but that it could be several weeks before they produce a conclusion.