Crash west of Santa Rosa kills motorcyclist; singer Norman Greenbaum hospitalized

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A motorcyclist was killed and internationally known singer-songwriter Norman Greenbaum was critically injured Saturday in a crash west of Santa Rosa.

The CHP identified Greenbaum, 72, best known for his 1969 hit “Spirit in the Sky,” as a passenger in a Subaru Outback that was involved in the 3:20 p.m. crash on Occidental Road near Piezzi Road.

Ihab Usama Halaweh, 20, of Santa Rosa, was killed when the Outback, traveling east on Occidental, turned left onto Piezzi Road and crossed into the path of his westbound motorcycle, CHP Sgt. David Derczo said.

Greenbaum, whose hit single is one of the most familiar pop songs of the last 50 years, featured in nearly 50 movies, including “Apollo 13” and recent TV shoes like “House” and “Law and Order,” is a longtime resident of Sonoma County. He and a passenger on the motorcycle, Nhmia Mekonnen Kahsay, 20, of Santa Rosa, were transported to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital . Both were listed in critical condition on Sunday afternoon, a nursing supervisor said.

The motorcycle, a 2004 Suzuki GSX-R600, wasn’t able to stop in time and slammed into the car, the CHP said. It was unclear how fast the motorcycle was traveling.

Halaweh died at the scene, said Santa Rosa Fire Battalion Chief Jack Piccinini.

The Subaru driver, Bonita Perea, 63, of Santa Rosa, escaped injuries.

“She’s very shaken by the whole incident,” Piccinini said.

The crash remains under investigation. Alcohol was not a factor, the CHP said.

Friends on Sunday posted hearts and words of love to Halaweh’s Facebook page, which featured his motorcyle as a cover photo. He was proud of the bike, which he referred to as “my baby” in a February posting. In January he posted a photo of himself standing on the bike with news that he was trying “to get a few stunts down” before summer.

The crash closed Occidental Road west of Irwin Lane for about three hours.

Lila Terrell and her son, David, 11, who live down the road, were shaken when they rolled up to the intersection of Occidental and Piezzi roads on their bicycles. CHP officers were still investigating.

“It’s horrible,” David Terrell said.

His mother added, “This intersection is a danger.”

Their neighbors, Ron and Irene Holman, agreed. The couple were involved in a crash at that intersection six years ago. Ron Holman said their SUV was sideswiped after making a left from Piezzi onto Occidental.

“I thought I had enough space,” he said, adding he was at fault for the accident because he was the one with a stop sign. There are no stop signs on Occidental.

Since the accident, Irene Holman added, they no longer turn left onto Occidental.

“When we moved here 45 years ago, there wasn’t a lot of traffic on Occidental,” Irene Holman said. “Now, it’s like Highway 12.”

“This would be a good place for a signal,” she added.

You can reach Staff Writer Eloísa Ruano González at 521-5458 or On Twitter @eloisanews.

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