Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Foothill College teacher dies from Skyline crash

Foothill College teacher dies from Skyline crash
Confusion leads to delayed reporting

by David Boyce
Almanac Staff

Foothill College teacher Tom Colby Maddox, 65, of Portola Valley died of apparent head injuries July 15 three days after he was hit by a car while bicycling on Skyline Boulevard.

Maddox and longtime friend and fellow Foothill teacher Tom Strand of Los Altos, were biking in Woodside just north of Highway 84.

Police reports on the accident were delayed due to California Highway Patrol officers from the Redwood City office being at a service for an officer who recently died.

Maddox died at Stanford Hospital.

Reports from the CHP and San Mateo County Sheriff's Office differ in key respects, including the color, make and model of the vehicle that struck Maddox, the date of the accident and the extent of Maddox's injuries.

Strand said the accident happened between 11 and 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, July 12, on Skyline about a half mile north of Highway 84.

The two men were traveling south on the two-lane road in a section with a steep bank but no shoulder or bike lane, Strand said. They were just emerging from a series of S turns on a slight downhill grade and moving at the "speed of traffic," about 30 miles per hour, he said.

Strand said he was about 50 yards ahead of Maddox when he "heard a crash, like somebody dropping a tray full of dishes." He turned back to find Maddox splayed in the road, his helmet still on and two cars pulled over.

The vehicle that hit Maddox was a blue Subaru Forester driven by Redwood City resident Beverly Oaks, 81, CHP Officer Steve Perea said.

Stacy Binns, a resident of San Mateo who was driving about two car lengths behind Oaks, said Maddox was occupying about a third of the lane when the Subaru "sped up a bit and went to pass (him) on a curve with a double-yellow line." The Subaru "shot back in before she passed Tom, and she sideswiped him," Binns said.

"I don't think he knew she was coming," she said. There was no traffic coming from the other direction, she said.

"It was a horrible, horrible accident. It just didn't make any sense. It shouldn't have happened. I think about him every day. It's heart-rending."

Binns said she sent her daughter to find a resident with a land line to call 911 after attempts to use a cell phone failed due to poor reception.

Oaks and Binns waited at the scene for the CHP to arrive, Binns said.

Strand said an ambulance came after about 30 minutes and medics drove the unconscious Maddox to Stanford Hospital. Plans to use a helicopter fell through because the nearest one was too far away, Strand said he was told.

Damage to Maddox's helmet indicated an impact just behind his left ear, Strand said, adding that he was told by a physician at Stanford that Maddox died from head injuries.

The CHP and the Sheriff's Office split duties in patrolling Skyline, a state highway, with the CHP handling traffic and the Sheriff's Office handling general law enforcement.

Deputies from the Sheriff's Office arrived in minutes, Lt. Ken Jones said. Firefighters and medics responded quickly as well, Capt. Rob Lindner of the Woodside Fire Protection District reported.

But on July 12 the Redwood City CHP office of the CHP was on reduced duty to commemorate an officer who had recently died, with patrol duties being covered by the San Francisco and San Jose offices.

The nearest available CHP officer was about 30 miles away and took nearly an hour to get to the scene, Officer Perea of the San Jose office reported.

By the time the CHP officer arrived the scene had been cleared, Perea said.

"I was surprised about how little (the officers) asked me," Binns said. "It was a deadly accident."

The CHP initially reported that Oaks was driving a white Toyota and that the accident occurred on July 15.

The Sheriff's Office report had Oaks in a charcoal minivan, leaving the scene of the accident and driving over Maddox. The report also stated that his injuries indicated "some bleeding (but) nothing serious."

An obituary on Maddox is at www.paloaltoonline.com

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite professors at Foothill. Having some difficulty concentrating in class, he said to me afterwards, "Life is short, man. Complete these units and move on." Miss him dearly.