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Account of tragic death in article published by Whittier Daily News challenged by family members of 70 year old popular community member.
A local family is searching for answers and clues on how a beloved and vibrant relative was killed after being struck by a car and dragged for more than 80 yards on a well-known street in Whittier this past Thursday.
Arturo Ornelas, 70, was riding his bicycle on Lambert Road when he hit by a pickup truck and later died at the Los Angeles USC Medical Center. The popular community member was pronounced dead at 2:24 p.m. on Thursday at Los Angeles County USC Medical Center with a current autopsy pending.
“Our entire family is devastated over the death of Art, we are still trying to grasp what took place, how it happened, and why,” said Mario Gastelum who is the nephew of Ornelas.
Gastelum told Hews Media Group-Community Newspaper that his beloved uncle was employed at Golden West Autobody, and that Ornelas ‘was on his way to buy lunch on his bicycle when he was struck and dragged nearly the length of a football field, before the man driving the pickup truck stopped his car.”
Gastelum also told HMG-CN that his family took “great offense” to an article published in the Whittier Daily News about the incident in a written statement.
According to Gastelum, “It is highly probable, that the driver ran through the stop when making the right turn, without looking to the right. My uncle was dragged 80 yards.”
Gastelum who is a well-respected RCA Engineer (Root Cause Analysis) told HMG-CN that “if the driver had come to a full stop, he would have seen my uncle riding his bike on the sidewalk path. This is a simple case of the driver not following the basic rules of driving. The fact that this writer articulated his story inaccurately doesn’t help generate an informed discussion or healthy debate here. In fact, the writer does a disservice by not conducting enough fact checking. Defending the driver only demonstrates and cheapens the bias that somehow it was the cyclists fault.”
Gastelum has been “consumed with grief” over the death of his uncle, and has spent the time since the incident took place analyzing the scene where the horrific death took place.
Gastelum blasted a published report in the Whittier Daily News written by long time crime reporter Brian Day. Gastelum told HMG-CN that “I respectfully disagree here on the Whittier Daily News (on their coverage).”
“Everyone’s comments are based on the story that writer has provided. I was at the scene after the accident and the story written is not accurate,” Gastelum said. “For starters, the cyclist was heading to buy lunch. He happens to be employed at the Golden West Coach Autobody. He was not being accompanied by anyone else. The two people that rushed to the cyclist aide where bystanders that happened to be walking on the same sidewalk that the cyclist was riding on,” he stressed.
Gastelum said that his uncle “was riding on the side walk, and the eyewitness accounts back that up. Second, it is highly probable, that the driver ran through the stop when making the right turn, without looking to the right. The man was dragged 80 yards.”
“In case the blame is being levied against the cyclist (his uncle) first, the driver may have ran the stop sign, and second the driver failed to look both ways, right and left before making the right turn,” Gastelum opined.
“I will be meeting with investigator’s from the Whittier Police Department on Monday, Officer Franco, to be exact, that the driver story is not how the driver portrays it. Had the driver come to a full stop, he would have seen the cyclist riding his bike on the sidewalk path. This is a simple case of the driver not following the basic rules of driving,” Gastelum said.
“The fact that this writer articulated his story inaccurately doesn’t help generate an informed discussion or healthy debate here. In fact, the writer (of the Whittier Daily News article) does a disservice by not conducting enough fact checking,” Gastelum said.
“Defending the driver only demonstrates and cheapens the bias that somehow it was the cyclists fault. The driver is going to say what is convenient in order to mitigate responsibility and place a burden of proof on the cyclist that somehow the cyclist is fully responsible, and the inconvenient truth and fact is the cyclist died. There no one to blame but the driver of the truck. To remotely suggest that the cyclist was riding against traffic is insane,” Gastelum continued in his statement to HMG-CN.
“Last time I checked, automobiles are not allowed to operate on the sidewalk, so I don’t understand how the cyclist riding his bike on a sidewalk constitutes riding against traffic. As a RCA (Root Cause Analysis) engineer, I have spent the last few days analyzing the crime (not accident) scene, and there is no possible way the driver could have reasonable stopped at the stop line painted sign on the exit of Home Depot,” he said.
“This is a case of outright carelessness and negligence, and not the result of an honest accident. For example, An accident is when a vehicle has a tire blow out or mechanical failure through no fault of the driver and loses control of his car and collides into another car and the driver does everything to mitigate the collision. That is an accident. Careless and negligence, when, for example a driver see’s a amber light turn red and decides to go for it on red and run the light. In this instance, the driver has common sense & beforehand knowledge that running an amber/red light can cause a collision,” Gastelum said.
“In summary, I can attest, that the driver knowingly did not come to a complete stop and looked both ways, and knew that by not following simple rules of the road, he can injure a pedestrian or cyclist on a sidewalk. The driver is not being forthright. The Whittier Police Department case number is 14-1802, Traffic Officer Franco can be contacted by calling, 562-567-9256.”