Two bicyclists were killed and one other suffered major injuries when they were reportedly struck by a Santa Clara sheriff’s patrol car that crossed the double yellow line and hit a group of riders in Cupertino, the San Jose Mercury News reports. The newspaper also reports that a good Samaritan who stopped to help the injured bicyclists said the deputy told him that he had fallen asleep at the wheel. The bicycle accident claimed the lives of two young, avid bikers – Matt Peterson, 30, of San Francisco and Kristy Gough, 31 of Oakland.
A 20-year-old man from Germany identified as Christopher Knapp was also seriously injured but was reportedly in stable condition. A fourth rider was not hurt, the newspaper reported. California Highway Patrol officials say there is no evidence that the 27-year-old Sheriff’s Deputy, James Council, fell asleep at the wheel or that drugs or alcohol were involved. So, apparently, CHP did not even take a blood sample from this deputy although according to another county sergeant, their department routinely tests blood samples from any employee involved in a major accident.
CHP officials also say that the deputy crossed the double yellow line into oncoming traffic and struck the group of bikers. So what caused him to cross the double yellow line and what caused the deputy to seem disoriented? Officials don’t have the answers to those questions yet.
What a terrible loss for the families. In fact, one of the cyclists, Kristy Gough, a champion tri-athlete was considered “an Olympic hopeful” and was being scouted for the Summer Games in Beijing. What was a pleasant ride on a beautiful day was instantly transformed into a horrible tragedy. We hope officials investigate this accident objectively despite the fact it was caused by one of their own.
Council has reportedly been placed on administrative leave until an internal investigation is complete. We believe that the families will benefit from the counsel of an experienced personal injury attorney. This time is crucial for them and they need someone on their side, fighting for their rights. The deputy will have a lot of backing from the department. If the deputy is found to have been asleep or distracted, his department could be held liable and financially responsible for the loss and injuries caused in this accident, which clearly happened when the deputy was on the job driving his patrol car and acting in his capacity as an employee of the Santa Clara Sheriff’s Department.
A good route to take for the Sheriff’s Department should admit responsibility for what happened and arrive at a compromise or settlement with the victims’ families.