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Driver killed by debris on Highway 101 in Menlo Park

Original post made on Sep 16, 2016

An elderly man was struck in the neck and killed by an unidentified object while driving north on U.S. Highway 101 in Menlo Park early Friday afternoon, Sept. 16, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, September 16, 2016, 3:08 PM

Comments (15)

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2016 at 3:38 pm

This is scary.

What sort of speeds were the highways moving at while this happened? It is very fortunate that the car slowed and hit the highways divide. This could easily have been a lot more serious.

Posted by 101 Driver
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 16, 2016 at 4:29 pm

Trucks sometimes have unsecured items; this results at times in a tragedy. I hope the police find and convict the irresponsible party that had the item that flew into this man's windshield.
Today I was driving in Palo Alto behind a small pickup truck; I decided to hang back as I saw a bunch of stuff - ashes, etc. dream out of the back of a charcoal BBQ that this dude was transporting in the back of his little truck. Didnt look to be well secured, and I didnt want this debris affecting my car or my vision as I drove.

Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on Sep 16, 2016 at 6:10 pm

Unsecured cargo is not just a 101 phenomenon, it happens all over, with increasing frequency. There is a growing number of truck drivers who are simply unskilled at securing their loads. I've seen wood pallets, boxes of all materials (including metal), mattresses, furniture, construction equipment (like ladders), clothes, and much more strewn all over various highways.

Not so long ago, I was behind a pickup truck that lost a plastic crate and it was run over by someone behind me. Same thing with a wooden chest of drawers that was facing backward and the pickup driver did not secure the drawers so they started shaking open. One of them did fly out and got smashed into a million pieces by vehicles behind him. When he arrived at his destination I bet he trashed the chest, it was useless without that drawer (assuming he only lost one).

Also, I see tons of paper and plastic fly out of pickup truck beds. That's a large source of highway trash. The sloppy people think "Oh, that plastic bag/receipt from Home Depot/empty drink bottle isn't going anywhere." They are wrong.

Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.

Anyhow, RIP to this old man and my condolences to his family, friends and other loved ones. Shame to die unexpectedly due to someone else's sloppiness, but we should all expect more frequent occurrences of these times of tragedies in the future. Sad.

Posted by Deadly
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 16, 2016 at 6:14 pm

Deadly is a registered user.

I have had a few objects fly off uncovered trucks and shatter my windshield over the years: on 880, on 580, 680 and 101. Once, as a train went over an overpass above 880, a large rock fell and shattered my windshield so badly that I had glass embedded in my forehead and nose.

Posted by Carrie Lee
a resident of Los Altos
on Sep 16, 2016 at 8:22 pm

The death of this man today was not necessary. I drove by this accident, and witnessed an elderly man lying on the 101 asphalt with a yellow tarp partially over him. I hope someone comes forward if they witnessed anything dropping off the back of a truck, this was an unnecessary death, someone's spouse, father, grandfather... It could have been a family memeber of yours, please help identify who was responsible for this.
My condolences go out to the family that lost this man today to a tragic death.

Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 17, 2016 at 8:50 am

Hulkamania is a registered user.

I watched an extension ladder come off a van in front of me. It was sliding down the highway trying to catch up with its owner while I'm trying to decide what to do if it stays in my lane. Luckily, the orphaned ladder hit an expansion joint and took a hard left into the center divider.

Meanwhile, the van never slowed down. He'll be in for a surprise when he gets to his net job.

Posted by Tragic
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 17, 2016 at 10:25 am

I could not help think, what if this were my family member?

"Unidentified object."
If there were witnesses, could no one give a description of the object and the other vehicle?

The guilty driver needs to be held accountable.

People who get onto the freeway need to feel responsible for any hazards they are causing to other drivers. I really don't understand why we don't have strong signage that serves to up awareness before getting on the highway and I wish those pretty circular on ramp nature settings could include a vehicle safety zone area encouraging work vehicles could pull off and double check their load if they have any last minute doubts. The penalty for any loose object off a vehicle on the highway should be severely prohibitive and should be posted as a reminder at highway entrances.

I also drove right next to the deceased man yesterday. They had his body laying on the pavement in the lane, face covered, sneakers sticking out. Really unnecessary death. Bless him for not taking out other vehicles when he crashed.

Posted by Todd
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 17, 2016 at 10:44 am

I wonder if he was following an appropriate distance from the truck or car in front of him?

Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 17, 2016 at 11:50 am

Hulkamania is a registered user.

Todd asked, "I wonder if he was following an appropriate distance from the truck or car in front of him?"

Separation may not have helped. Stuff falling off vehicles will, just like footballs, take funny bounces. Not knowing what the object was, it may have been safer to be closer to the vehicle in front and take the loose object in the grill.

We'll probably never know.

Posted by Be Positive
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 17, 2016 at 12:26 pm

Be Positive is a registered user.

So sorry for this man and his family. But wouldn't the object that hit him be in the car?

Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 17, 2016 at 12:48 pm

Other reporting has indicated that the baseball-sized metallic projectile had flown across the divider from the southbound side, so closing speed could have exceeded 100 mph. Wasn't a matter of this driver following another vehicle too closely. Sounded like the police have the object, described as a plumbing fastener of some type.

Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 17, 2016 at 12:55 pm

It's unknown how or when the object that hit this unfortunate soul ended up on the highway. But what is clear is that California roads are woefully lacking in basic maintenance - including cleaning and prompt clearing of debris. I recently returned from a couple of weeks in Texas. I was shocked at how much better the roads are there compared to our local freeways. Every night when traffic is low, the major freeways are swept and policed for debris and objects on the freeway. That shows as does the condition of the pavement compared to ours.

Our road conditions not only make driving a pain in the neck, but as this incident shows, are also a safety issue.

Why can they manage to maintain the roads in Texas, but not here? There are many lamentable things about Texas, but unseriousness about basic infrastructure does not appear to be one of them. It's something that should be copied here.

Posted by Debris is Common - A Woman Driver
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 18, 2016 at 3:10 pm

Picture this:

Christmas morning, over 15 years ago. While driving 680, in the middle lane going 65MPH, a truck in the fast lane that was keeping up with traffic going 80MPH in that lane, passes me.

Immediately, an 18 inch long piece of metal catapults from the fast lane into the lane where I was driving, headed at my windshield, at eye level.

Cars filled with people were to my right, my left and behind me. I had no place to make a safe lane change. Every car followed the other at a safe driving distance, for speeds of 65-80MPH. But who expects a piece of metal hurling towards you, at eye level? What's a safe speed, for that?

So I took my foot off the accelerator, allowing my car to safely slow to a speed where the piece of metal, through gravity, became lower. Gratefully, the person behind me didn't plow into my rear end, but I never applied the brakes, I just reduced my speed as little as I could to buy a few seconds and it worked.

While I was successful in keeping the thing from smashing my windshield, the metal had veered a bit as it lowered, demolishing my left headlight, and causing a lot of damage to my front left bumper.

Through my rear view mirror, I saw the thing then bounce into the right side of the car that was passing to my left. Where it went from there, I do not know. I guess it remained on the freeway, for more unsuspecting drivers to encounter.

After it happened, I was shaken by it, but also angry. I then drove 80MPH and caught up with the truck from where I thought the metal had come, memorizing the phone number of the contractor and later calling the man, asking him if he knew the kind of damage that came from his truck had caused.

He said it did not come from him, but he only hit the metal, not seeing it on the freeway in time to avoid it. He didn't know where it went either, after he hit it, saying he didn't know it hit my car & another driver's too.

If that was true or not, who knows. I never saw it fall FROM his truck. I saw that it appeared to come from his truck, seeing it only as it became airborne from that lane, and approaching at eye level to me. It is very possible he was telling the truth. These things just happen too fast.

After that experience, I began to notice all the debris all over our highways - there is a lot. That is the lesson I learned.

Better my headlight and the right side of another car taking a hit, rather than someone's head. I did my best, by just slowing down to avoid causing a real pile up, and a disaster on Hwy 680 on Christmas Day.

Let's remember that on the Dumbarton Bridge (or the other one that parallels it) a woman was impaled by a piece of steel that came from the bridge, miraculously having the presence of mind to keep her daughters safe in her car, keeping other cars from harm, while she herself was instantly killed by it.

That metal came from BENEATH her car, and last I heard, it was negligence and lack of bridge maintenance.

Thanks to the poster that mentioned that Texas is different. California should take a lesson from them. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Posted by Paul Burnett
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 19, 2016 at 8:19 am

Ask any water truck or tanker truck or fire pumper truck driver what that thing is - it's not a "nut" but an adapter for connecting a hose to the pump output plumbing of a tanker or pumper truck. It apparently came unscrewed.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2016 at 8:27 am

According to tv news, the missile came from a Caltrans truck. With all the work being done on 101, this doesn't really surprise me.

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