Cyclists recall hit-and-run crash that injured 4 south of Petaluma
The four cyclists had just made a right turn late Saturday morning onto two-lane Point Reyes-Petaluma Road outside Petaluma when Oliver Colvin warned of a dark blue pickup coming up from behind.
“The last thing I said was, ‘Car back,’ ” recalled Colvin, a Larkspur resident who was in the rear. “Then I woke up and I was on the ground.”
The four riders suffered major and moderate injuries when a Dodge Ram pickup ran into them on Point Reyes-Petaluma Road - after which its driver sped away. But before midnight Saturday, CHP investigators arrested a 21-year-old Novato man who had been identified with the help of social media and video images captured by an approaching motorcyclist with a helmet-mounted camera.
Aaron Michael Paff, a 2014 graduate of Casa Grande High School, was booked into the Marin County Jail on charges of felony hit-and-run. He was released Sunday on $50,000 bail.
He is listed an assistant utility/maintenance worker with the Marin Municipal Water District.
The four cyclists Saturday had been taking part in a charity event ride along with 1,300 other riders.
The injured included Spencer Fast, 48, of Mill Valley, who was airlifted to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital with major injuries. He was reported in stable condition Sunday.
Colvin, 55, of Larkspur, was taken by ambulance to Marin General Hospital, along with the other two riders, Robert Grier, 53, and Joseph Olla, 49, both of Danville. All three men were released from the hospital Saturday evening.
Witnesses told CHP officers the crash appeared to be intentional, Officer Andrew Barclay said Sunday. As such, the investigation continues to focus on whether Paff meant to strike the cyclists.
“There’s a difference between drifting to the right and veering to the right,” Barclay said.
Jim Elias, executive director of the Marin County Bicycle Coalition, the cycling event’s sponsor, said he watched the video and it shows the pickup moving from the center of the westbound lane to its right edge and back again to the center after striking the cyclists.
“He plowed into them and then he went back to the middle of the lane and continued on,” Elias said.
He called the crash “particularly upsetting because of the possibility it was intentional and the driver fled the scene.”
For Colvin, the chief operating officer at wine and spirits company WX Brands in Novato, Saturday’s ride was a chance to take part in the third annual Jensie Gran Fondo, named for former professional cyclist Jens Voigt. It also gave him the opportunity to reconnect with Grier, a friend from college days at UC Davis. Grier, in turn, brought along a friend, Olla.
The day was picture perfect, and along the way the men encountered a “great spirit” from their fellow cyclists, Colvin said. The three were about to complete the last leg of their?70-mile journey - the middle distance of the event’s three rides - when they stopped at the intersection of Hicks Valley and Point Reyes-Petaluma roads, about 8 miles southwest of Petaluma.
There Fast joined them and took the lead position traveling west. They set out single file, hugging the right edge of a straight roadway just east of the Marin French Cheese Co. But Colvin estimated he was underway for only 10 to 12 seconds before the pickup hit him.
The truck’s passenger side mirror may have struck his head; he had a gash requiring 10 stitches, he said. He landed on his left side, and his left elbow required another 10 stitches.
Grier was riding in the second position behind Fast. He said Sunday he suffered a concussion and doesn’t recall anything for many minutes before and after the crash. His first recollection is of finding himself in an ambulance.
The CHP credited the public for quickly helping investigators locate Paff after authorities Saturday released images of the pickup. The images, which appeared on social media posts and in online news stories, came from screenshots grabbed from high-definition video captured from the motorcyclist’s helmet camera.
Of the many who provided information, at least two callers gave authorities Paff’s name and address, Barclay said. Based on those tips, CHP detectives and officers, along with Novato police, arrived at Paff’s residence about 11 p.m. Saturday.
There they found a blue Dodge pickup with damage to its right side, including missing glass from the passenger side mirror. Such glass was found at the crash, Barclay said.
Shortly before midnight, the investigators took Paff into custody without incident.
Paff has given statements to investigators, but no details have been released. He is scheduled to appear in Marin County Superior Court Oct. 19.
Investigators don’t know whether Paff had been impaired by alcohol or drugs at the time of the crash, Barclay said.
Both Colvin and Grier expressed gratitude their injuries weren’t worse and that they had received such caring aid at the crash scene and in hospital. But Colvin said he still can’t comprehend the driver’s response.
“I don’t know why someone would flee the scene of an accident,” he said. “It’s mind-boggling.”
Staff Writer Christi Warren contributed to this story.You can reach Staff Writer Robert Digitale at 707-521-5285 or firstname.lastname@example.org.