Fire chief releases recording of response to motorcycle fatality | News | Palo Alto Online |


Fire chief releases recording of response to motorcycle fatality

Emergency crews were delayed by heavy traffic while responding to Sept. 22 accident

Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman has released an audio recording of the Menlo Park Fire District's response to a Tuesday, Sept. 22, collision on U.S. Highway 101 in East Palo Alto that left a motorcyclist dead.

Schapelhouman said the incident was an example of how emergency crews are delayed by heavy traffic, particularly during commute hours.

The crash was reported at 5:46 p.m. on south Hwy. 101 just north of Embarcadero Road. The first firefighters arrived on scene at 5:56 p.m., Schapelhouman said.

The California Highway Patrol said the motorcyclist's death was reported to dispatchers just before 6 p.m.

The firefighters were unable to meet the fire district's standard of responding to such emergencies within seven minutes, Chief Schapelhouman said. While acknowledging that in this incident, an earlier arrival might not have saved the motorcyclist's life, it could make a difference in another incident.

The San Mateo County coroner's office identified the motorcyclist as Ronald Barbaran Garcia, 27, of Union City.

To listen to the recording, click here.

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20 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2015 at 3:12 pm

I think the work on highway 101 is causing big problems to traffic and it is wrong that they can't get it done quicker by working 24/7.

From some of the things I have read, the vehicles had nowhere to go to the let emergency vehicles pass. This was on the ramps and the highway.

I was in a car coming down from Foothills Park yesterday noontime and emergency vehicles were trying to get up to the Park. Once again, they are hampered because other vehicles were not able to get out of the way of the vehicles.

We all know that we have to let emergency vehicles pass, but sometimes in an emergency, there just isn't anywhere for traffic to move to let them pass.

7 people like this
Posted by Palo Altan
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2015 at 8:51 pm

Agree with Resident about highways.

Around town, I do see lack of cooperation with cars. Many drivers are too selfish and don't want to disrupt their route to move out of the way for an emergency vehicle. And many drivers do not know that even if the emergency vehicle is on the other side of the road, all cars are supposed to pull to the side. Everyone is in too much of a hurry. There ought to be police cars following the emergency vehicles and ticketing cars that don't pull over - the city could use all the money it would provide.

8 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 11, 2015 at 9:42 pm

@ Palo Alton

If you have ever traveled in other parts of the world, you would know that not yielding to emergency vehicles is the norm. This is especially true in Mexico. We need better drivers education, this is true for bicycle riders also.

17 people like this
Posted by Paly Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 11, 2015 at 9:46 pm

[Post removed.]

6 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 11, 2015 at 11:56 pm

Given that people aren't responding as well to emergency vehicles needing to get through traffic and some roads having long-term construction, it behooves all driving those roads to slow down, pay attention and realize that how we behave does make a crucial difference. I know that this is common sense, but just imagine - if the motorcyclist had done these things he'd still be alive.

I'd love to see a campaign addressing this deadly cultural shift of not moving over for emergency responders. PSAs from fire and police personnel and medical experts could make an impact.

8 people like this
Posted by Translator
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2015 at 9:00 am

I have lived in various parts of Asia, though not India.

I have to say that in much of Asia there is an attitude of not caring, plus vague laws that are never enforced.

However in Japan, where people are VERY law abiding and heavy traffic actually stops for pedestrians, there is simply no room for traffic to pull over, especially in the major cities.

Interestingly enough, in spite of Japan's TOP-NOTCH public transit systems, or maybe because of them, streets and highways are too narrow, and thus congested bumper-to-bumper, to have any room to pull over. Also, like the Bay Area, the cities with jobs are so expensive that people have long commutes from where the rent is affordable (CEOs and college professors being the exceptions, with nearby housing GIVEN to them)

2 people like this
Posted by Responses?
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 12, 2015 at 9:33 am

Umm, wow.

PSAs would be great as a reminder to all drivers.

On an Almanac thread, a poster suggested that local areas might want to consider investing in motorcycle first responders or additional delivery methods for emergency services that might be better suited for dense areas (read: where there is no room for traffic to yield way). With roadways become narrower, hemmed by sidewalls, bulb outs, and other barriers, perhaps this is worth exploring.

9 people like this
Posted by Learn to Drive
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 12, 2015 at 10:11 am

I have remained stopped at green lights, as is the law, to allow emergency vehicles the right of way through the intersection as they approached. Drivers behind me have honked at me to go on green - even with an ambulance approaching the intersection. Learn to drive people.

5 people like this
Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 12, 2015 at 12:35 pm

I was on the ramp from Embarcadero to 101 North when the firetruck was trying to get by. All the cars on the ramp were trying to get out of the way, but due to traffic and the narrowness of the ramp, it was very difficult (we had to pull all the way off the ramp into the non-paved area for the firetruck to get by). Traffic on 101 was a parking lot. Literally. With very little space to pull off for any of the cars. Just too many cars for the space,

6 people like this
Posted by Concerned Stanford Staffer
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 12, 2015 at 12:54 pm

With the ongoing traffic construction to widen lanes for more carpool assess, why don't the architectural-design team come up with an emergency only lane so that Emergency Vehicles can have proper assess to situations such as the one on 101 in September? at every freeway crossing make a lane that will be used by emergency personnel only.

If you are designing a means to widen for regular vehicles why not add something for emergency vehicles. I am not an architect but seriously somebody has to be thinking about this right.

2 people like this
Posted by Emily Renzel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 12, 2015 at 4:04 pm

I was headed East on Willow during this crisis and it was impossible to do anything but outright stop to let the paramedics van figure out a way to thread through. What is usually a 6 minute trip to my East Menlo destination, took over a half hour. The gridlock that evening was a scary portent of the future for local transportation.

1 person likes this
Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Oct 13, 2015 at 7:37 am

Alphonso is a registered user.

Smarter dispatch plan might help - in this particular case two PA stations could have made it to the accident faster than MP. Dispatch should consider traffic conditions.

5 people like this
Posted by Johnny
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 13, 2015 at 11:05 am

Saving a few buildings in East Palo Alto from the remote chance of getting flooded, IF there is a major flood, is not worth shutting down the freeway for 2 years.

The devasastating effect on the commute and people's daily lives highly offsets whatever benefit our "tax dollars at work" achieves with the lane closure.

But of course, its absolutely necessary, we can't fight it so lets sink into apathy, and I'm just being immature.

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