'New information' surfaces on Nov. 4 crash

Bicyclist Lauren Ward of Los Altos was killed in collision on Alpine Road

A collection of vehicles, including squad cars from the California Highway Patrol, gathered at the intersection of Alpine Road and Interstate 280 around noon Tuesday (Jan. 18) to do more research into the Nov. 4, 2010, crash in which Los Altos bicyclist Lauren Ward, 47, collided with a tractor trailer and died, CHP officer Art Montiel said.

The CHP has "new information" and was conducting a "follow up," Montiel said, adding: "If this information changes the outcome (of the investigation), we'll let you know."

The new information did not come from a witness to the accident, Montiel said. The CHP is still hoping that witnesses come forward, he added.

The new information has also not led to a reopening of the investigation in which the CHP determined that the driver of the truck was not at fault in the accident, Montiel said.

Officers redirected vehicle and bicycle traffic away from the scene of the accident from about 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Montiel said.

On hand from the CHP were the accident's investigation officer, the area commander and members of the Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team, Montiel said.

The CHP also required the presence of the actual truck, from Randazzo Enterprises Inc. of Castroville, that was involved in the accident. The driver, Gabriel Manzur Vera, was not present, Montiel said.

The Ward family, represented by attorney John Feder of San Francisco, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Vera and Randazzo.

In an earlier interview, Feder said he had hired an investigative team to conduct a re-enactment. Feder has not yet responded to a request for an interview.

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Like this comment
Posted by Paul
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 19, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Am I missing something, or is this a non-story? There's "new information" but absolutely no clue as to what that info is. Thanks for the tease.

Like this comment
Posted by Joanne
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 19, 2011 at 12:31 pm

LOL!! Thanks for the laugh Paul!

Like this comment
Posted by release it
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 19, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Why are the police afraid to tell the public what this "new information" is?

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Posted by j
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 19, 2011 at 3:05 pm

I waited in traffic for 45 min. The road was blocked from 10 until after 3 at least. I saw 7 cop cars there. I was wondering why this was going on, but really that many hours?

Like this comment
Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 20, 2011 at 8:05 am

The original CHP report was basically a stenography of the killing driver's version. As a frequent rider through the same spot where Ms. Ward was killed, it never made much sense. I have no idea what the new potential evidence might be, but we need a version closer to the truth. The previous one was highly suspicious and improbable.

Like this comment
Posted by Felicity
a resident of Los Altos
on Jan 20, 2011 at 10:59 am

As a former frequent driver of that area, I can tell you that bicyclists frequently do not ride defensively and make stupid maneuvers into harms way. I'm not saying the truck driver was not at fault or doesn't share fault, I am saying that sometimes it is hard to admit that our loved ones did something foolhardy that took them from us.

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Posted by resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 20, 2011 at 11:14 am

I did not find this follow-up story a non-story at all. I found it intriguing being that the driver had killed someone in a former accident that was also ruled accidental.
When doing an investigation, the officials obviously do not tell all they know in the hopes that they will uncover more details.
I am shocked and amazed at the amount of cynics out there ready to pounce on any and every tidbit.

Like this comment
Posted by Both Sides
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 20, 2011 at 11:21 am

Felicity, unbelievable and insensitive comments! Wow! As a former frequent driver of that area, I can tell you that DRIVERS frequently do not drive defensively and make stupid maneuvers into harm's way.

Like this comment
Posted by Felicity
a resident of Los Altos
on Jan 20, 2011 at 11:38 am

Sorry you feel that it was insensitive. I lived on Portola Rd and near there for years and many - certainly not all - rode with an attitude. I had cyclists make left hand turns in front me, cut me off, etc. numerous times. Yes, drivers cause many issues too. I quit riding the hills because of stupid drivers; too many close calls and I chose life over the potential of these accidents. I'm just saying that everyone is always quick to assume the little bicycle got hurt by the Goliath truck and I am just saying sometimes the bicyclist is at fault but no one ever wants to admit that that might have been the case. Not saying that is the case either. Just saying there is at least the possibility. And I have not heard from anyone else willing to postulate that.

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Posted by Dr H
a resident of Portola Valley
on Jan 20, 2011 at 12:01 pm

It is good to know that the CHP are looking more deeply into this incident.

I still find it hard to believe that there were no other witnesses at the scene, and have the feeling that someone out there knows more - maybe much more.
Without further evidence from a third party, the only option is to let the driver go - he is, by law, innocent until proven guilty, no matter what his actions on the day.

As to the comments about cyclists and drivers - there are good and bad examples of both - a pretty wide spectrum of capabilities and attitudesn my experience. We notice cyclists, as they are a bit of a deviation from the norm in traffic, and require some extra attention at times, inclding when they are riding "by the book". A little tolerance on both sides goes a long way.

Dr H.

Like this comment
Posted by don't blame the victim!
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 20, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Blaming the victim is shameful unless you really know what happened. And if you were a witness, did you share that information with the police?

Like this comment
Posted by Jphn
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 20, 2011 at 12:09 pm

The world includes many foolish and insensitive people. Some of them drive automobiles. Some of them drive bicycles. Some of them drive both.

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Posted by Dan
a resident of Portola Valley
on Jan 20, 2011 at 12:27 pm

I didn't see anybody blame the victim. I just saw an openminded comment that either or both could be at fault.

Furthermore, to assume that the cyclist is blameless somewhat by definition implies that the trucker is guilty before so proven.

If you have that evidence, you had better report it too !?

The point is that we don't know, But we do know that both drivers and cyclists need to be smart when using the roads even though some of both frequently deviate from that standard.

Like this comment
Posted by Joyce
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 20, 2011 at 7:26 pm

I agree with Felicity that sometimes bikers are in a hurry. It's not about blaming but this is the truth. One thing humans forget that it doesn't matter who is at fault, it will almost cost a biker or a pedestrian their life if they are not careful. And if they don't wait of few extra seconds even if a driver of a vehicle is at fault and coming close to the biker <in this case> or a pedestrian!

Recently we read the news about VTA bus accident and the pedestrian fatality!

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Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 20, 2011 at 9:06 pm

With no witnesses yet the only "new information" that I can imagine is the result of the family's independent investigation.

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Posted by gpsman
a resident of another community
on Jan 21, 2011 at 11:16 am

It's a miracle this story is being followed. I'm willing to admit it's a miracle when any story is followed for more than a few days...

Occam's Razor suggests to me 3 dead cyclists is way too much of a coincidence.

Like this comment
Posted by Witness
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 21, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Last Thursday evening, I witnessed a driver run down a cyclist in Palo Alto. It was on the narrow section of Middlefield a couple blocks "north" of University. A place where there is no shoulder to the road at all. We were in the left lane. The other driver passed us on the right and pulled ahead far enough to pull into the left lane in front of us. We saw a bicyclist ahead in the right lane, and then we watched in horror as the other driver stayed in the right lane and hit the cyclist without so much as trying to squeeze over a little. We saw both bike and rider fly up into the air. The driver did not slow down. In fact the car sped up. We called 911 and followed for a few miles; hoping we could keep it in sight until the police could catch up. The car had no license plate (just a dealer ad, I suppose it was a new car) so we really didn't want to lose it. We followed it down Willow and on to 101, where it sped up once again. We stayed with it until it exited the freeway and kept following. We stayed in contact with 911, and before long, the police caught up and pulled the car over. The driver was arrested. We were interviewed by the police. One of them mentioned that the driver was apparently drunk. We later heard that the cyclist ended up with a concussion, but no other serious injury. I've been very surprised that we haven't seen any mention of this in the news anywhere.

It's really too bad that there were no witnesses to the incident in which Ms. Ward was killed. My heart goes out to her family, who have no certainty about what actually happened, and how to think about her death.

I am an avid cyclist myself, and witnessing this incident has really shaken me. Seeing another cyclist who was riding responsibly get run down like this. I know that as a cyclist, I can't watch every single car over my shoulder. But I suppose everything we do carries risk. The driver who hit the cyclist could just as easily have hit a pedestrian or another car. Luckily, this time no one died, and the guilty party was arrested.

Like this comment
Posted by commuter
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 21, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Witness - do you know how badly that bicyclist was injured? I'm surprised that a felony hit-and-run was not reported in this newspaper.

Middlefield Road is a trap for bicyclists. There are bike lanes on Middlefield in Menlo Park and in southern Palo Alto. However, those bike lanes disappear around downtown Palo Alto, where speeding and reckless driving are rampant. And there is no signed detour for bicyclists. I hope that the victim is OK.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 21, 2011 at 6:17 pm

Witness. Can you tell us whether the bicylist was using lights? This surely is a horrible story, but knowing whether there were lights could be a useful factor in knowing how to prevent accidents like this in the future.

Thanks for what you did and yes, I am pleased to know that the cyclist was not seriously hurt.

Like this comment
Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Jan 21, 2011 at 7:46 pm


Now that you have witnessed the laws of physics in action, do you still think it's a good idea to bicycle on motor vehicle roadways?

Like this comment
Posted by Witness
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 24, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Bicyclist's Condition: Don't know more than what I put in my original post.

Lights: I don't remember whether the cyclist had any lights. I kind of think not, but am not sure. Being a cyclist, I usually notice other peoples bike lights, just to see if there is anything better out for me to think about getting. I'm pretty sure that if the cyclist had taillights, they were probably minimal. In any case, the cyclist was perfectly visible to all of us in the car. I guess the street lighting must be pretty good there.

Dear "Outside Observer," No doubt it was no accident that you called our local streets "motor vehicle roads." Bet you could go on for hours explaining to the rest of us all the reasons why motor vehicles own them exclusively.

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

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