A 41-year-old Modesto man died in a motorcycle versus big rig accident on Highway 99 on Oct. 2. The motorcyclist was trying to avoid the tractor-trailer when the accident occurred, the Modesto Bee reports. The identity of the motorcyclist has not been released yet. California Highway Patrol officials said the crash occurred when the tractor trailer changed lanes cutting off the Harley-Davidson Road Glide near Tuolumne Boulevard.
Melanie Carter, 20, the passenger on the Harley, reportedly suffered road rash injuries. The tractor-trailer driver, Jerry Ritch of Louisburg, N.C., was working for R & J Trucking of Kinston, N.C. at the time of the accident. Ritch, who was driving in the center lane of the highway, pulled into the path of the motorcycle by switching to the left lane. The big rig driver changed lanes because traffic had slowed in the right and center lanes as drivers merged from the Tuolumne Boulevard onramp.
The Harley-Davidson, which was traveling at about 65 mph, swerved to the left to avoid striking the big rig, hit the guardrail and got trapped between the guardrail and the big rig before being pulled underneath the rig’s trailer. The Harley was pinned underneath the trailer’s front axle. Both the man and Carter, who were both wearing helmets, were thrown off of the motorcycle on impact. The man suffered fatal injuries when the big rig ran him over.
Our hearts go out to the families of this Modesto motorcyclist and the injured passenger. I offer my deepest condolences to the victim’s family for their tragic and irreparable loss.
There is no word yet on whether the truck driver will face criminal charges. But based on the news reports, I expect the truck driver to be charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter for making an unsafe lane change and causing this fatal accident.
According to California Vehicle Code Section 21658 (a) a vehicle “shall be driven as nearly as practical entirely within a single lane and shall not be moved from the lane until such movement can be made with reasonable safety.” And California Penal Code 192 (c) defines vehicular manslaughter as “driving a vehicle in the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, but with gross negligence; or driving a vehicle in the commission of a lawful act which might produce death, in an unlawful manner, but without gross negligence.”
I would urge the family of the motorcycle driver to promptly seek the counsel of a reputed California motorcycle accident attorney. They require skilled representation to have the responsible parties brought to justice and secure for them rightful compensation for the loss they’ve suffered. I’m positive the trucking company has already started working with their attorneys to escape any liability in this accident.