MVHS community reacts to tragic death of sophomore boy in collision with big rig

MVHS+community+reacts+to+tragic+death+of+sophomore+boy+in+collision+with+big+rig+

Maya Murthy

This story was updated on Oct. 29 at 3:05 p.m.

Additional reporting by Elia Chen

On the morning of Oct. 27, a male MVHS sophomore died as the result of a bicycle accident at the intersection of McClellan Road and Bubb Road in front of 7-Eleven. The identities of the driver and victim have not been released, although a sheriff’s report will likely follow the coroner’s report. (Update Oct. 29 at 3:05 p.m. At 12:35 p.m. Principal April Scott announced over the loudspeaker that the name of the victim was sophomore Ethan Wong.)

“The coroner’s office wanted to do a dental verification, so they’ve decided to delay the announcement,” Public Safety Chair Commissioner Andy Huang said. “Originally, there was going to be an announcement [on Oct. 27] at 7 p.m., but they decided against it because the medical examiner said he wanted to make doubly sure this is the right person.”

Freshman Suchith Ullagaddi witnessed the accident while riding his bike behind the victim on Monday morning.

“The big rig came from the side of the road,” Ullagaddi said. “At the time, it looked like [the biker] was right on the line of the bike lane, but the truck was definitely drifting a little bit.”

According to Cupertino Municipal Code Chapter 11.32, trucks are not permitted on McClellan Road before 9:30 a.m. if they are not delivering goods or taking “the shortest and most direct route to the nearest truck traffic route or other unrestricted highway.”

According to ABC 7 News, the truck belonged to the company Moonlight Express, which is based in Tracy. The company has not released a statement yet.

“Usually you can apply for a special permit [to drive on narrower roads], but you have to apply way in advance and you have to have a special reason,” Huang said. “The sheriff’s office and the city are all going through the paperwork right now.”

Ullagaddi and Public Safety Vice Chair Commissioner Robert McCoy confirmed that the boy was wearing a helmet. The boy’s bike was completely destroyed.

“The impact was enough to knock his helmet off, and then he actually got ran over,” McCoy said. “And then, on top of that, the driver kept going.”

Seniors Jenny and Cheryl Wan’s father, Wenhai Zheng, witnessed the accident and reported that immediately following the accident, a woman who was crossing the street walked to the scene and held the boy in her arms as she told him to wake up. After he saw the accident, Zheng parked his car,walked to the scene of the accident and began to pray for the victim.

Ullagaddi and a few drivers who witnessed the scene called the police who, along with ambulances, were dispatched to the scene. However, they were too late to save the student.

Accident Infographic
According to Ullagaddi, his actions and that of Zheng were not reflective of most witnesses and passersby — many drivers chose to ignore the incident.

“It was at the point [when] the police and ambulances started arriving that people started pulling over, but until that point people were just driving around him,” Ullagaddi said.

According to Zheng, the first policeman came a few minutes after the accident on a motorcycle and told the bystanders to not touch the victim. The police blocked off the road for five minutes as they tried to revive the victim and Zheng said that after the victim was officially pronounced dead, the emergency crew laid a shroud over him. The police redirected traffic down Bubb Road a short while later, blocking off the area until late in the afternoon. In her announcement about the incident on Monday, Principal April Scott informed students during fifth period that they should avoid 7-Eleven during lunch.

Witnesses and police also chased down the big rig and blocked its path before it could drive any further, alerting the driver, who was unaware that he had hit the student. According to Ullagaddi, the student was hit by the trailer of the big rig, which may have accounted for the driver’s lack of knowledge that he had hit someone. He eventually turned around and cooperated with the police at the scene.

The incident has led Ullagaddi to be concerned about his safety. He is unsure if he will continue biking.

“As a biker, I feel really scared,” Ullagaddi said. “I’m not sure if I should bike anymore, if I should just walk or get dropped off instead because honestly, it was illegal for the truck to be there in the first place, so who knows what’ll happen again in the future.”

While Ullagaddi feels that bike lanes should be wider, McCoy hopes that the City Council will enforce the three-foot buffer laws for bike lanes, a requirement he claims the bike lanes on McClellan Road do not meet.

“Clearly [the bike lane] does not have the three-foot buffer,” McCoy said as he pointed to the bike lane. “We’re not including [the area next to the sidewalk made of cement], we’re only talking that line to [the beginning of the asphalt] right here is a bike lane.”

On Oct. 28, Mayor Gilbert Wong released a statement on behalf of himself, Cupertino City Council and staff stating that the city of Cupertino promotes public safety for everyone.

“I am very saddened by this incident as I have a 14-year-old high school student and an 11 year old elementary student who also walk home from school,” Wong wrote in his statement. “We want to make sure our streets are safe for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.”

Cupertino is currently in the process of painting all bike lanes bright green in order to isolate the bike lane from the road and to make the distinction between the two more visible.

“I think isolation is the key. Right now we have pseudo isolation with bike lanes,” Huang said. “By painting them green, you’ll make it more obvious to the drivers, particularly to the big wheels.”

The bike lane for McClellan Road has not yet been painted.

Members of the community have set up a memorial at the spot of the accident in response to the tragedy, where people have laid flowers, stuffed animals and candles in honor of the victim. At the start of third period on Oct. 28, Principal April Scott led MVHS in a moment of silence in honor of the student, after confirming his death.

At 8 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 29, parent volunteers, including Zheng, will stand by the 7-Eleven on Bubb Road and hold signs that read “We love our kids. Please drive safely” to promote better traffic safety. Members of the Cupertino City Council and Cupertino Transportation Committee will also attend.

On the same day there will be a candlelight vigil at MVHS from 7 P.M. to 8 P.M., where students, staff and family will be able to write notes and light candles in the student’s memory. Candles will be handed out for those who do not bring one of their own.

On Thursday, Oct. 30, all MVHS students are encouraged by ASB and Administration to wear purple to commemorate the loss of a member of the MVHS community.

“What we’re doing right now is the best thing: flowers, candles,” Huang said. “Show your support.”