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Forestville cyclist dies in collision with big rig on River Road

A Forestville man riding his bike to work Wednesday morning died after he clipped a trailer parked on the shoulder of River Road, and fell into the path of a passing tractor-trailer rig, according to the CHP.

The 41-year-old man was run over by the rig’s rear wheels and died from the impact.

In what CHP officials believe is an unprecedented series of fatalities, the man’s death is the 11th in four weeks along Sonoma County roads, including drivers, passengers and bike riders.

Despite that, there have been fewer road deaths to date in 2016 than this time last year.

The rider was the 24th person to die in a crash on county highways and rural roadways patrolled by the CHP this year. Last year at this time, 26 people had died.

While the 8:30 a.m. crash remained under investigation, the rider appeared to have made an unsafe move just before he crashed, CHP Officer Jon Sloat said.

The cyclist, identified as Amos Franklin Bish Jr. of Forestville, had been riding east on River Road just east of Fulton Road. Eastbound traffic was backed up toward Highway 101, Sloat said.

Bish was splitting traffic between the east- and westbound lanes, riding to the left of vehicles in his lane as he passed them, Sloat said.

A witness told officers traffic was moving at less than 5 mph, and the rider was estimated to be traveling at 15 mph when he cut from the left side of the lane toward the right shoulder between a vehicle and the tractor-trailer rig, Sloat said.

But as Bish turned onto the shoulder, a legally parked trailer belonging to Nunley Engineering was in his path. Bish hit a light fixture on the back of the trailer, lost his balance and fell.

Rig driver Francisco Barragan, 35, said he heard something and stopped, finding the cyclist and bike near the back of his truck.

CHP Officer Mike Tonelli was in the area and was flagged down by a driver who told him of the crash. Tonelli and a Kaiser Permanente emergency room technician stopped and helped perform CPR.

Katie Gibson, the ER tech, said she was on her way to work when she looked into her rearview mirror and saw the big rig stopped behind her and people nearby. She made a U-turn and parked.

“I thought somebody had been rear-ended and they were hurt,” Gibson said of her initial impression. “When I turned around, you could see people looking underneath the truck. And I thought, ‘OK, there’s something bigger than just a rear-end going on.’”

Gibson said Bish initially had a pulse but it quickly stopped and she started CPR. Rincon Valley firefighters determined the man had died.

Of the 11 deaths in the past month along Sonoma County roads, four have been drivers, five passengers and two cyclists.

At Wednesday morning’s scene, CHP officers took measurements and photos, and interviewed witnesses while firefighters directed morning commute traffic around the site. As part of the investigation, the body remained on the roadway, covered by a yellow tarp. A black backpack and mangled road bike lay nearby.

Sloat said the truck driver couldn’t have avoided the incident.

A shaken Barragan stood off to the side of the crash in the warm sunshine. The father of three said he lives nearby and had just started a drive to Ukiah to deliver a load of sheetrock, strapped down on the back of the Peterbilt.

“I don’t think he saw that trailer,” Barragan said, reflecting on what happened. “It’s sad. If I could have done anything, I would have.”

The recent cluster of fatal crashes started Aug. 23 with four deaths in one day, including two young Jenner sisters.

Since that date, there have been two other double-fatal crashes involving young Petaluma sisters and Russian River-area teens. Last weekend, a 19-year-old Hopland man died in a crash during a police chase.

Circumstances have varied. Wet roadways, speed, drunken driving and unsafe passing have been factors in one or more of the crashes, according to the CHP.

CHP officers are still investigating several of the fatalities, including the Jenner and Petaluma crashes, as well as a cyclist killed on Eastside Road and the Monte Rio deaths of two teens.

A Forestville woman who died in a Windsor crash on Aug. 23 was determined to have been driving drunk, Sloat said. Susan Noble, 64, hit a tree off Eastside Road. She wasn’t wearing a seat belt.

CHP officers, some of whom have responded to several of the recent fatalities, are frustrated.

“If everybody slowed down and paid attention to their surroundings, that’s one of the common factors here. Reduce your speed or be aware of what’s going on around you,” Sloat said. “None of us can think of a time with this many fatals in that short of a time.”

Staff Writer J.D. Morris contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 707-521-5412 or randi.rossmann@pressdemocrat.com.? On twitter@rossmannreport.

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