Culver City Crash UPDATE: Victim statuses, Felony DUI, new interviews, and the Justice Ride

By Alex Thompson

(Previous posts on Bikeside about the Culver City Crash – #1, #2, #3 – and a nice comprehensive post at LA Streetsblog. UPDATE: added a section below about Felony DUI and whether Dahab can be charged with it.)

An update on the Culver City Crash (CCC) which injured eleven cyclists and left six hospitalized is long overdue.  I’ll update you on the status of the victims, explain why Dahab can still be charged with Felony DUI, share a couple videos, and provide a little commentary on the Justice Ride that took place Friday to visit the victims.

Bruce set the captured the spirit of the ride, showing up with these flowers.

Victims recovering, but they’re not out of the woods yet.

All of the six hospitalized cyclists have undergone significant surgeries to stabilize them and set broken bones.  Some victims are set to be discharged, or have been discharged already, although our information is imperfect on precisely how that’s unfolding.  Other victims though, particularly “C”, a 16 year old woman badly injured, and “D” are doing poorly, and face further surgeries and hospitalization.  They may also have permanent disabilities from the crash.

We’ll just use letters to identify the victims for privacy’s sake.  Here’s the present situation to the best of our knowledge:

  • C – this cyclist suffered the worst injuries of all, and has been sedated or in a medically induced coma since the crash.  Reportedly C has severe head trauma, broken ribs, a broken pelvis, and fractured vertabrae.  We have heard that C is no longer permanently sedated and is awake at times, but C’s family is reluctant to speak w/ media about her status.
  • D – D appeared to be out of the woods when I visited on Saturday, but was suffering headaches and severe pain related to a brain bleed.  Now things have taken a turn for the worse – D is on a morphine drip but her headaches are so bad that she still hits a 10 out of 10 on the pain scale every few minutes.  Apart from the headaches, D’s left leg is completely shattered beneath the knee, and held together by a metal rod, and her left leg is also broken.
  • R – was going under for another surgery when I last received an update.  R had face lacerations, a broken nose, a broken jaw, broken arm and leg.  When I visited on Friday with the Justice Ride R seemed to be A-ok mentally, enough so to look at me like “who is this stranger asking me all these questions.”
  • D – D is for Dana, who you saw interviewed by Mike Bowers in the last update.  She has two broken legs and a separated shoulder, but she was spunky and fun to be around when I visited Friday.  Well managed pain seems to make the difference for patients.  She is supposed to be discharged soon.  It’s gotta be tough to go from strong cyclist to having two broken legs, but I think Dana is just the person to make it look easy.
  • B was released – by all reports – on Sunday.  He has a shattered knee, broken leg, and multiple breaks.  I didn’t get to meet B at Cedars on Friday, but I look forward to a future meeting.
  • “Ca” is the missing woman that everyone was worried about.  It turns out she was in Cedars all the time, but we didn’t know a last name so it was tough to find her.  She’s having a tough time – she has a fractured temporal bone, severe concussion, and face and scalp abrasions, contusions and lacerations.
  • J – there’s some thought that there is still one cyclist we have not found, a friend of Ca.  We’ll keep looking.

A number of these cyclists have no family to support them out here in California, and they need a lot of help during their rehabilitation.  So several of the discharged cyclists will be leaving California to return to their home states.  For me, that really drove home how severe this crash was.  I oscillate between “how can we make sure this never happens again” and “throw the book at Christine Dahab.”  People with two broken legs having to move home just makes me think we should find a bigger book to throw.

Why Dahab can & should be charged with Felony DUI

I’ve heard more than a few people lament that because Dahab blew a .07 on her blood alcohol content (BAC) test at the station, and the legal limit is .08, she cannot be charged with DUI.  Of course this is a huge concern because DUI is an appropriate and serious charge.  As I’ll explain, Dahab can still be easily charged and easily convicted of Felony DUI.

Dahab was charged with DUI – specifically Misdemeanor DUI – after the collision, and that fact gives the clue about whether Dahab can be charged with Felony DUI, a charge that carries with it significant jail time.  How could Dahab be charged with Misdemeanor DUI if she blew below .08?

To charge someone with Felony DUI you only need to show that:

  • 1) They were under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or a combination at the time, and
  • 2) they violated a law, and violating that law led to
  • 3) causing bodily injury to another person.

This is the content of CVC 23153 (a), which you can see at the bottom of this section.  Notice that the legal limit of .08 is not mentioned, and in fact the commonly cited version of drunk driving where one blows a .08 or greater is given by the next section of 23153: section 23153 (b).

Note that causing bodily injury is what separates Felony DUI from Misdemeanor DUI.  Bodily injury means a severe injury, such as a broken bone.  In this case we have at least six victims with bodily injury, so condition (3) is met.  Dahab admitted to drinking, blew a .07 at the station and .08 at the scene, and numerous witnesses reported that she drove erratically.  So she was definitely under the influence, satisfying condition (1).

Did Dahab violate a law that led to the injuries in this case?  That is the question we must ask and answer in order to know if she can be charged with Felony DUI.  I think this is an easy one: she did violate a law leading to these injuries.  I’ll bet she violated more than one law, such as driving too fast for conditions, but the easy one is 21954 (b).  21954 (b), which I wrote about in a previous post, states that a driver must exercise due care for the safety of pedestrians in the roadway, regardless of whether those pedestrians were in the roadway legally or not.  Since cyclists not riding their bikes are classified as pedestrians in this case, 21954 (b) would apply.  Dahab had a responsibility to exercise due care, and hitting at least eleven people is indication that she did not.

Move on to those interviews, but I’ll paste 23153 (a) and 21954 below so you can read them.  First, 23153 (a):

23153.  (a) It is unlawful for any person, while under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug, to drive a vehicle and concurrently do any act forbidden by law, or neglect any duty imposed by law in driving the vehicle, which act or neglect proximately causes bodily injury to any person other than the driver.

and 21954 in its entirety:

21954.  (a) Every pedestrian upon a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway so near as to constitute an immediate hazard.

(b) The provisions of this section shall not relieve the driver of a vehicle from the duty to exercise due care for the safety of any pedestrian upon a roadway.

Interviews

One of LA Cycling’s best videographers has been hard at work interviewing crash victims.  CoolAssMike aka Mike Bowers has some new interviews up.  First up Byron Gonzales:

and then Magnus, who was not injured but witnessed the crash and took these photos of the scene:

Photos of Justice Ride

I was going to tell you about the Justice Ride, which was a ride put together Friday to visit the victims at Cedar Sinai and UCLA, but I’m beat, and I gotta get some sleep so I can kick ass on this tomorrow.  So here’s a photo story:

Bruce set the captured the spirit of the ride, showing up with these flowers.

Bruce set the captured the spirit of the ride, showing up with these flowers.

One of the Get Well cards - this one for Byron.  I actually didn't get to sign any of these because I was permanently distracted by shooting, talking to media etc.  Damn.

One of the Get Well cards - this one for Byron. I actually didn't get to sign any of these because I was permanently distracted by shooting, talking to media etc. Damn.

The ride heading up Fairfax.  I raced ahead to get the shot, and then was so out of breath I overexposed the shot, so you can't tell that we had about 40 riders.  Mike Bowers and Rosie Fatemi lead the ride here.

The ride heading up Fairfax. I raced ahead to get the shot, and then was so out of breath I overexposed the shot, so you can't tell that we had about 40 riders. Mike Bowers and Rosie Fatemi lead the ride here.

The bike parking at Cedar Sinai was less than awesome.  More on that another time, but suffice to say that in Los Angeles there are plenty of opportunities for bike activists.

The bike parking at Cedar Sinai was less than awesome. More on that another time, but suffice to say that in Los Angeles there are plenty of opportunities for bike activists.

Our crew of compassionate Ridazz - mad thanks to Rosie Fatemi for organizing the ride.

Our crew of compassionate Ridazz - mad thanks to Rosie Fatemi for organizing the ride.

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20 Responses to “Culver City Crash UPDATE: Victim statuses, Felony DUI, new interviews, and the Justice Ride”

  1. Thank you for the comprehensive update, though it’s painful to learn that some of the victims have progressed into more worse states. Any news on the progress of the investigation?

  2. Good Job, Bikeside. Excellent coverage and support. Keep it up.

  3. Thanks y’all. I updated the post this morning with a discussion of why Dahab can be charged with Felony DUI despite blowing .07, below the legal limit of .08. Scroll up to read!

  4. i didn’t see it mentioned here, but there is also a technique for scientifically back tracking on the DUI test number. For instance, if she blew a .07 at the station, there is a period of time that passed allowing her body and blood stream to filter out the alcohol. but a DA can get a scientist to use the numbers at the station, her body weight, and the time between the accident and the test to get a more accurate number at the time of the accident. forgive me if I missed it, but someone should make sure that this is looked into.

  5. I’m really glad you all made to effort to roll out to Cedars-Sinai. It means a lot to have a familiar face nearby when you’re laid up in a hospital bed.

  6. Unbelievable! It would be great if she would be proactive about reaching out to the victims to ameliorate some of the damage.

  7. Thank you for the update. My heart and prayers are with everyone involved. If there is anything I can do please contact me.

  8. Alex, thank you so much for all the updating! Many members of my bike group have been asking about the status of the victims and what’s up with the case and you’ve been the best source to help them.

    Also, we have get well cards and some donated items but I haven’t been able to get in direct contact with someone willing to deliver them for us (not knowing any victim personally). If you have an opportunity could you email me about this? Thanks again -M

  9. Thanks for the updates. Great job of interviewing and posting details about this incident.

  10. Really?
    There are plenty of laws this person can be charged with without using the redundant and obnoxious-feel-good-made-to-scare-the-masses-without-really-accomplishing-much law.
    As a bike rider I wish more people actually paid attention while driving and respected others that are on the road but there is no reason to make up new rules.
    People are hurt and die everyday because of inattentive driving yet they are not charged with Felony charges.
    People make mistakes and these kind of feel-good laws ruin peoples lives.
    Maybe I should create a blog and rant about all of the nanny-state-politicians who create laws based upon single situations that exaggerate the crimes so people feel-good about the politician and they get re-elected. People are so ignorant.

  11. Very useful update and clarification re: statutes. Every single cyclist needs to be up on the language of the law. And sorry I missed you guys last week at CC park for the ride!

    The felony charge certainly seems in order. Put your wiser heads together and let us know where to apply the pressure.

    Maybe what’s in order is a fundraising ride, perhaps organized by Westside clubs, to raise awareness and funds for outreach and perhaps expenses?

  12. Thank you for keeping us updated with more than just the cold hard facts. I’m sure I’m not the only one who will happily donate to a fund or provide some other kind of practical support for the injured riders. Is anything being set up?

  13. She can be charged with felony DUI. That doesn’t mean that she will be. From your earlier posting on this, it sounded like the police were blaming the bicyclists. That’s not a good sign.

  14. I believe your assessment of the potential for Ms. Dahab to be charged with a felony DUI is correct.

    Once, I was pulled over on a Sunday morning around 6am for speeding.

    I had been at a party that night, but I had stopped drinking at 3am so I could sober up to drive home.

    When I told the p.o. that I had been drinking that night, he administered a breathalyzer test. I came in well under the legal limit, but he said that I could still be charged with a DUI simply because I had alcohol in my system.

    Just because she did not automatically qualify for a felony DUI by the alcohol level in her blood, does not mean that she won’t qualify for it by her sheer negligence combined with the fact that alcohol was present at all.

  15. Can someone contact Roger, one of the crash participants, and have him contact me? Wes at Sound Cycles. 323-857-5701 soundcycles@aol.com

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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