San Diego

Police ID Man Killed After Tow Truck Broadsides SUV in Carmel Valley

An elderly man died in the hospital after the car he was riding in was broadsided by a tow truck in Carmel Valley on Sunday night, the San Diego Police Department said.

Thomas Royden, 81, was a passenger in a Honda CRV who had the right-of-way at the intersection of El Camino Real and Carmel Valley Road when a tow truck ran a red light and struck the SUV at around 9:30 p.m., according to SDPD.

Royden sustained serious injuries. Police said he died from his injuries roughly two hours later. His dog was riding in the CRV and was also killed.

Royden's family told NBC 7 he was an avocado farmer in Ramona who liked to garden.

Royden's wife Kozy, 72, was behind the wheel when they were hit. She was taken to Scripps Memorial Hospital and was discharged on Tuesday.

Kozy's niece Heather Gerken flew in from Connecticut to help her aunt recover.

“I just couldn’t imagine her going through this without me,” Gerken said.

She said she wanted her uncle to be remembered for his extraordinary life and generosity.

“His story is so amazing,” said Gerken. “He is almost Great Britain’s answer to Indiana Jones. He is the son of a Lord, educated at Oxford. Instead of staying in England he set off for the world… He, at some point, managed to talk his way onto a train in the Soviet Union during the Cold War through some combination of charm and daringness… He has seen the 7-foot tall Dinkas loading ships in the Nile.”

Royden's 30-acre farm burned down in the 2007 Witch Creek Fire, but Gerken said that did not stop him from farming his dream.

“Everyone told him just to give up on it, but he just wouldn’t,” she explained. “He cared about the people who worked on the farm, and he loved that place. I remember visiting it once after the fire; everything was black and all the trees were burned, and he found one branch of a tree that was still living and it moved him so much so he rebuilt that farm.”

Gerken said her uncle also had a green thumb at his Del Mar home where he tended to a large tomato and milkweed garden. 

“All those are Thomas’s tomatoes, I have never come here in the summertime and not found baskets of them. He would give them away to everyone… Kozy would even carry bags of them with her on errands to give out to people, even at the bank.”

The milkweed attracts Monarch butterflies. Gerken said that garden is for Kozy.

“The whole driveway was filled with Monarchs. He just grew them because they made Kozy happy,” said Gerken.

Video from the scene showed a "Wind 'n Sea Towing" truck with some damage to its front.

It was not clear why the 49-year-old tow truck driver crossed the intersection through a red light.

"It's always a shame and all I can say is we can't predict these things. we do our best to prevent them, but we really have to remember each day to tell people we love them and make sure people know we're there for them," said Barbara Berkovich, a Carmel Valley resident.

NBC 7 spoke with the tow truck company, and they said the driver involved has been working with them for the past year and has not had any incidents prior.

The 49-year-old truck driver is OK, according to police.

SDPD said the tow truck driver may face a misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter charge and, if convicted, could face up to one year in jail. He was not arrested.

The investigating is ongoing.

No other information was available.

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