The two victims were hit by a catering truck and pronounced dead at the scene. The driver was arrested on $100,000 bail.
By Hans Laetz / Special to The Malibu Times
Two bicyclists on Pacific Coast Highway near John Tyler drive were killed Saturday morning when, forced into a traffic lane by concrete construction barriers, they were struck from behind by a catering truck.
Los Angeles County paramedics worked on both victims at the scene, and flew them to the UCLA Medical Center, where they were pronounced dead. Deputies identified the victims as Scott Bleifer, 41, of Santa Monica, and Stanislav Ionov, 46, of Calabasas. Victor Silva, a 37-year-old Compton resident, was arrested on two counts of vehicular manslaughter.
Ionov was a senior researcher and expert at laser technology at HRL Laboratories, which is located less than a mile from the accident scene. An avid bicyclist, he resided with his wife and young daughter near Calabasas, an HRL spokesman said.
Bleifer, who worked in real estate finance, was a regular at the Peet's Coffee Shop on 14th Street in Santa Monica. Friends said he was always in the constant company of his Labrador, Kona. Duncan Lemmon, president of a bicyclists club called Club Velo La Grange, said Bleifer was a member of that group. He said Bleifer was planning to ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles next weekend for an Arthritis Foundation fundraiser.
Rumors circulated that the accident was a hit and run, however, Silva had stopped a quarter mile down the road from the accident scene. The driver explained he did not step hard on the brakes because his passenger was standing behind him and cooking hot food, deputies said.
Silva "barely stepped on his brakes," and did not swerve to avoid the two men, who were riding abreast of each other in the right-hand traffic lane next to the barricaded shoulder, said Los Angeles Sheriff's Traffic Sgt. Philip Brooks, quoting witnesses.
"Witnesses say he pretty much plowed into them, that he just tapped the brakes," Brooks said.
The shoulder at the crash location is barricaded with concrete rails, installed with a state permit for construction of the Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue. Heavy weekend bicycle traffic is forced to use the traffic lanes, where they have a legal right to be, Brooks said.
Dozens of motorists witnessed the gruesome collision on the highway just northwest of John Tyler Drive. A witness in the car traveling behind the catering truck said he could see the bicyclists and wondered why the truck didn't pull to the left to give them room.
"One guy went under the truck, and the other was stuck on the windshield for a moment before he went down," the shaken motorist, who asked not be to identified, said.
Silva pulled the catering truck over a quarter mile down the road and was later arrested there. He remains jailed in lieu of $100,000 bond.
"These bicyclists were not in any way at fault," Brooks said. "The truck driver had the obligation not to hit other vehicles."
Northbound PCH was closed for about four hours while traffic investigators measured and collected the accident evidence. Traffic in the Civic Center area was snarled as motorists were directed on a 45-minute detour via Malibu Canyon, Mulholland Highway and Kanan Dume Road.
Although the southbound road remained open, traffic was delayed. Drivers could see a pair of crumpled bicycles and backpacks lying against the barriers, and pooled blood on the concrete roadway.
The first youth soccer matches of the year were underway at adjacent Bluffs Park, a football games was starting at Malibu High, and weekend beachgoers added to the traffic quagmire.
Brooks said the two men were the first bicycle fatalities of the year on PCH, which is traversed by thousands of road bicyclists most weekend days.
"The number of accidents on that road is very low, but anytime you have a bicycle in 50 mile-per-hour traffic, it's a dangerous situation," Brooks said.
City Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich brought up the issue of bike safety on PCH at Monday night's council meeting, and it was decided that the Public Safety Commission would address the issue. Ulich is a proponent of bike lanes, or some other way bicyclists could ride safely on the highway. Caltrans had studied the issue before, but decided against bike lanes. The city has no jurisdiction over highway projects and can only make recommendations to Caltrans.
Pacific Palisades resident Scott Henderson had ridden his bicycle past the where the accident took place 45 minutes earlier that day.
"That could have been me," Henderson said in a phone interview Tuesday. "Those barriers literally force you onto the road … there's nowhere to go."
Henderson, who has been riding for three years, said he would never ride PCH again. He had come upon the accident scene on his way back home.
"I can never get those images out of my head," he said. "It was terrible."