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Bike rider killed in Laguna Hills Christmas eve collision

By Biking LA, 12/30/13, 11:00AM PST


Yet another bike rider won’t be coming home to his family this Christmas.

Earlier this evening, Orange County cyclist Ed Ryder emailed me with news that a bicyclist had lost his life in a Laguna Hills collision — news that has since been confirmed by the Orange County Register.

The victim, who has not been publicly identified, was apparently leaving the Ralphs parking lot on the westside of Paseo de Valencia south of Alicia Parkway when he was struck by a vehicle.

The Register says he collided with the vehicle, which seems unlikely.

Judging from the photo of the bike, it looks more like a side impact; the front wheel isn’t tacoed, while the rear wheel appears to have been separated from the bike.

Unfortunately, no other information is available at this time; most of the Register’s story is hidden behind their paywall.

This is the 85th confirmed bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the 12th in Orange County; that compares with 74 and 14, respectively, in 2012.

There is also an unconfirmed report that a rider doored in LA’s Brentwood neighborhood earlier this month has died.

According to the Orange County Coroner’s office, the victim was 82-year old cyclist Peter Tomaino, profiled by Orange County Register columnist David Whiting as OC’s toughest cyclist.

According to Whiting, Tomaino was a minimum 100-mile a week rider, even at an age when most riders have permanently parked their bikes — despite being hit by cars and other cyclists, and crashing so many time he’d lost track of the number of times he’s been hospitalized. 

Tomaino’s wife, 15 years his junior, would just as soon see her husband end his cycling career. But the exceptionally fit and lanky Tomaino will have none of that. Of those who say he’s too old to ride a bicycle,Tomaino says, “What do they know? They’re not athletes.”

With a dismissive wave of his hand, he looks me and declares, “Guys like us, we don’t stop. Heck, I’d rather be dead if I can’t cycle.”

Sadly, he got his wish yesterday.

Thanks to Ed Ryder and an anonymous OC source for the head’s up.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for Peter Tomaino and his loved ones.

Update: According to KCBS-2, the collision occurred around 1:45 pm Tuesday; he was declared dead at Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center in Mission Viejo at 1:58 pm. 

The station reports the driver was not suspected of drug or alcohol use. 

Meanwhile, both Ryder and OC cyclist and attorney David Huntsman point us to this letter Tomaino wrote to Cycling News over a decade ago.

I read Gordon Dillow’s article on drivers that are in a hurry and run through red lights. Believe me I can appreciate what he is talking about. I’m a 70 year old cyclist who is out there every other day riding 50 to 60 miles. I had one serious accident because of a driver running a red light. A lot of drivers have no consideration and don’t realise how vulnerable we cyclists are. So please drivers look out for us cyclists and let us enjoy our rides without the fear of being hit.

Peter Tomaino
Laguna Hills ,USA
Saturday, November 3 2001


Ken and Cathy

My husband and I were driving down Alicia Parkway heading Northeast and we were stopped at the red light at Paseo de Valencia. An older man was riding his bike heading East on Paseo de Valencia with traffic. He rode his bike directly in front of our car as we were the first car at the crosswalk. We both commented on what phenomenal shape this elderly man was in, that we had figured had to be in his late 70′s early 80′s, and that we were happy to see him riding his bike. We were on our way to a late lunch and then one of the Christmas Eve services at Saddleback Church. The light turned green for us and as we were driving through the intersection my husband looked to the right and noticed that the elderly man was laying on the ground in the middle of the street. We had to continue going through the intersection and had to find a street that would allow a U-turn. By the time we got back to where he was, which was literally 2- 3 minutes, the firetrucks were there and police and an ambulance came shortly thereafter. Apparently, there was another accident less than a block away so they were there immediately. This happened, literally, just a few seconds after we had commented on what great shape he was in for his age and how wonderful it was that he was riding his bike. We parked our car in the Ralph’s parking lot and got out and walked up to a woman to ask what happened. She told me that she was the one that hit him – she was devastated. She said that she parked her car and left it running and got out to see what had happened. The police came over to ask who had actually seen the accident – we did not see it – we just saw him laying on the ground. When my husband saw him laying on the ground as we drove through the intersection a large red bus was at the curb picking up/dropping off passengers so my husband had a clear view of the elderly man laying on the ground in the middle lane. We believe the bus was the last vehicle to pass through the intersection in the right most lane traveling in the same direction as the bike rider (the elderly man). By the time we got back to where this elderly man was laying in the street the bus driver had pulled the bus in front of the elderly man, we would have to assume so he/she did this so that no other car would run over the man. From this, we believe that the bus driver did not hit him. We would have to assume that the bus has cameras on the front where the police can see how this accident happened. The police came over and asked who saw the accident and the woman who hit him said she was the one that hit him but didn’t know how or where he came from. She showed the police officer where she had left her car running and he walked her to her car and told her to get into her car to calm down. I had asked another woman if she saw what had happen and she said no and that she was on her way to Ralphs and she saw the man laying on the ground and she called 911 immediately. As we said, he rode his bike across the intersection in front of us and within seconds he was laying down on the ground just past the exit of the Ralph’s parking lot. We couldn’t figure out what happened. We thought that possibly he had a heart attack and veared off into the middle lane or the person coming out of the Ralph’s parking lot hit him. There were no skid marks that we could see and his bike was not mangled up – just a wheel was off. He was laying at least 10 – 15 feet from his bike. The woman that called 911 said that he was in a fetal position when she got there and the fireman rolled him over to do chest compressions. We knew that it wasn’t good as they kept doing chest compressions and then they used the defibrillator once or twice. Another woman ran to the ambulance and wanted to pray for this man in the ambulance and was turned away because they had to leave immediately. My husband and I and the woman who called 911 all held each other and prayed for this man and his family and that God watch over him. When we got to Saddleback we asked that a pastor pray for this man and his family as well. My husband looked up online today to see how this man was doing and found out that he passed away. Our hearts are broken over this very sad news. We don’t live in Laguna Hills – we live in San Diego but go to Saddleback every now and then. We pray for you and your family and we pray this man’s family. We are Christian and pray that you know that your loved one is the loving warm arms of Jesus right now. We pray that this gives you peace and some sort of comfort. May God watch over you and Bless You!

  • Ken, Cathy – Thank you for sharing. I’m the Page One columnist at the Orange County Register, have written two columns about Pete (2008, August this year), had lunch with him regularly for more than five years…I’d like to chat. my email, phone 714-796-6869. With appreciation, David.

    Paul DAquanni

    Pete, was very proud of the fact he would take on the OCW Ride Around the Bear every year and for many years would be the oldest finisher. He was truly an inspiration for all to stay fit and challenge yourself.
    RIP Pete, we will all miss you.