The results of a federal criminal investigation into a deadly accident involving three bicyclists and a North County Transit bus are expected by the end of the month, according to sources close to the case. One cyclist was killed and a second was seriously injuried in the collision.
Most North Transit buses have six cameras with a view of the driver, the inside of the bus and the road ahead. Still pictures made from those recordings and obtained by NBC 7 San Diego tell a much different story about what happened in the Aug. 4 crash on Stuart Mesa road in Camp Pendleton.
At 43 years old, cyclist Udo Heinz had the strength and enthusiasm of a man half his age.
“He was always engaged in helping someone. He was the kindest person you could imagine,” Heinz’s wife, Antje Heinz, said in an exclusive interview with NBC 7.
But he was no match for the North County Transit bus. Heinz died shortly after impact in the Aug. 4 accident.
Now, she is left explaining it all to their two young children.
“We were soul mates,” she said. “We were best friends and we have the best perfect little family.”
John Edwards was seriously injured in that same collision.
“He's gone through several surgeries,” Edwards’ Attorney Richard Duquette said. “He's at times confined to bed, he's on a daily basis suffering terribly.”
Duquette says published reports stating the bus swerved to miss the cyclists then sideswiped them trying to avoid oncoming traffic are false.
“The bus impacted the rear end of all the bicycles it was a frontal impact,” Duquette said.
Photos obtained by NBC 7 indicate just that.
The damage is on the right front bumper of the bus. Still photos, made from onboard cameras, were filed along with a claim for damages against the transit district and driver Gamal Mohamed Hamouda.
“This was a clear sunny day on a straight road with clear visibility,” Duquette said.
The photos are time stamped. They indicate four seconds before impact the cyclists are off to the right and single file with no oncoming traffic. At 12:49:41 the bus approaches the riders with still no other traffic. Then at 12:49:42 the bus collides with the riders.
What was the driver doing at the time?
The North County Transit District (NCTD) denied our request for a copy of the video tape or we would show you. Could it be a case of distracted driving? Duquette has seen the tape.
“The bus driver clearly had an object in his hand up to the right side of his face and or in front of him at the time just before impact,” Duquette said.
Antje Heinz is herself a triathlete and at the urging of her son got back on a bike for the first time since the accident.
“It was the thing that Udo loved so much for us to do together. We continue doing that; I feel very close to him there,” she said.
NCTD not only denied us the video, but turned down an interview and our request for the driver's personnel file.
Traffic records indicate twice Hamouda was caught speeding in his personal car.
He pleaded guilty to driving 70 mph in a 45 mph zone and 78 in a 65 mph zone, as well as a rear-end traffic accident. Hamouda was placed on administrative leave after the August accident.