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Los Gatos: Bicyclist dies after Chevy Blazer rollover crash

The San Jose Mercury News: Los Gatos: Bicyclist dies after Chevy Blazer rollover crash

By Sandra Gonzales and Mark Gomez
mgomez@mercurynews.com
Posted: 02/01/2010 11:56:39 AM PST
Updated: 02/02/2010 05:36:15 PM PST

As he always did, single father Joshua West walked his 7-year-old daughter to school Monday morning. Shortly after, he rode his bike to physical therapy class for back pain. He never made it: A Chevrolet Blazer drove onto the sidewalk and slammed into West’s bike, killing him.

"It was difficult to see," said Los Gatos Sgt. Kerry Harris, describing the scene. When officers arrived at Lark Avenue in Los Gatos about 8:50 a.m., they found witnesses performing CPR. There on the street, lay the mangled bike and 28-year-old West, who was soon pronounced dead.

Moments earlier, Harris said, the SUV was traveling east on Lark Avenue in heavy traffic and drove to the right to pass traffic when it suddenly jumped onto the curb and sidewalk, striking West. The SUV then barreled through a pedestrian safety barricade and continued east through the intersection at Garden Hill Drive, stopping only after striking a signal post and flipping over, Harris said. There were no skid marks, Harris said, that would have indicated the SUV had even tried to stop.

The driver, whose name has not yet been released, has not been arrested and was taken to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center for injuries that were not life-threatening.

"Certainly drugs and alcohol are among the potential causes that we are looking into," Harris said.
That morning, Nancy Yeager also was on the road when she saw the fast-moving SUV swerve to the right, onto the sidewalk and toward West. Her thoughts immediately went to the cyclist.

"I thought please let him get out of the way," Yeager said. "But I knew there was no way. All of a sudden there was a ton of debris and dirt after he hit the guy on the bicycle."

Monday’s fatal crash was the second in Los Gatos in two days.

"We’re all in shock, nobody believes it’s real," said Christine Hampton, West’s aunt.

West lived in Los Gatos with his daughter, Briana, whom he has been raising alone since she was just months old. He never married, and the girl’s mother has been out of the picture, his family said.

"They were like two peas in a pod, she loved him so much," said Carolyn Campbell, his grandmother. "She was his world, anything she needed and wanted, that’s all he lived for."

But it was a struggle. West, who hurt his back while working as a groundskeeper for a Palo Alto cemetery, has been on disability for the past eight years, undergoing multiple surgeries and continuous back rehabilitation, said his family and friends. With finances tight, West didn’t even have a car and either rode his bike or walked wherever he needed to go.

"He didn’t dwell on the pain, he wasn’t a complainer," said Ashley Cushman, a friend who has known West for eight years. "In fact, he was always happy, pumped up, giving high-fives. He was exciting to be around," Cushman said.

West — who was born in San Jose and graduated from Del Mar High School — had hopes to one day start his own business, possibly in horticulture, and he had planned to attend vocational school after his latest rehabilitation program ended.

For now, Briana, will likely be raised by West’s mother, his family said.

"He always said family first," Hampton said. "We’re going to miss him."