By Mary O’KEEFE
On June 3, the California Department of Transportation opened the seven-mile stretch of Angeles Crest Highway (SR2) from La Cañada Flintridge to Wrightwood and State Route 138. Since then countless motorcycles and motorists have traversed the windy, scenic road. Unfortunately in its few weeks of being opened, there have been three fatal accidents.
The first was at 3:05 a.m. on June 10 when a 21-year-old Pasadena man lost control of his vehicle and collided with an embankment and a tree. California Highway Patrol investigated the accident and determined the driver was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident.
The second fatal accident occurred later that day at 4:30 p.m. For an unknown reason, a 48-year-old man who was staying with friends in Fontana was traveling westbound on the ’Crest at an unknown rate of speed.
“For an undetermined reason, he turned left while traveling on a straight [area of the road],” said CHP Officer Kevin Denmon.
“The gentleman made a left turn and seemingly drove off the mountain,” said Officer Ming-Yang hsu. The investigation is ongoing.
Montrose Search and Rescue responded to the accident. Capt. Janet Henderson said the team used 600 feet of cable to go over the side of the mountain to retrieve the man’s body. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The third accident occurred on June 19 when a 35-year-old Fontana man lost control of his motorcycle.
“The very last fatal accident occurred on Father’s Day when a motorcyclist was traveling too fast and was unable to complete a turn into a curve. He went down and became separated from his motorcycle before both he and the bike went over the side of the [mountain],” hsu said.
Accidents along the Angeles Crest Highway are investigated by CHP. These accidents, although tragic, are not uncommon on the ‘Crest.
“I can confirm that we are not conducting any special investigations into the collisions. All the collisions thus far have been consistent with the collisions we had before the Station Fire,” hsu said.
California Dept. of Transportation look at the CHP reports to determine if road conditions are a factor in accident.
“We aren’t doing anything new,” said Kelly Markham, spokeswoman for Caltrans. “We are doing the same thing with fatalities. We [receive the reports] from law enforcement.”
What needs to be stressed is that the Angeles Crest Highway is open after being closed since the Station Fire. Even veterans of the ‘Crest need to take time to get reacquainted with the curves and twists.
“Drivers need to drive at or under the speed limit and stay in their lanes. Motorcyclists need to do the same. Travelers of Angeles Crest need to respect the roadway and not get too comfortable. Even if they know the curves in the roadway, they must understand that vehicles could be at a complete stop around the bend, there could be a bicyclist and /or rocks in the roadway.
Caltrans is vigilant running trucks to clear the roadway but rocks could easily fall right after the Caltrans vehicle passes,” hsu said.
It is also good to remember that the road is shared with vehicles, motorcycles and bicycles. Recently a man was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon when he drove his car very close to bicyclists.