This page is dedicated to those who lost their lives or were injured on our streets.
By Craig O’Neill
On August 9, 2014, Matthew O’Neill was struck from behind and killed while riding his bicycle on Foxen Canyon Road in Northern Santa Barbara County. Matthew was 33 years old, a resident of Carpinteria, a PhD candidate at the University of California, Santa Barbara, an advocate, a fiance, a son, a brother and a friend. This is an account from Craig O’Neill, his younger brother.
Matthew was my big brother and the eldest of three sons. Growing up we were very close. We shared a bathroom, played on the same sports teams and joked around in the same Boy Scout Troop. His passion for cycling revealed itself early on and I’d often ride with him when we were growing up in Chula Vista. However, while he was attending UC Santa Cruz for an undergraduate degree in history, his love of long distance touring took root. He attended Whittier Law School and enrolled in the PhD program for special education studies at UCSB. He would have graduated this past June. He was going to marry Jennifer Passwater shortly after that, until his life was cut devastatingly short.
There is a type of cycler called a “randonneur:” a non-competitive, long distance endurance cycler that values self-reliance. This was Matthew’s passion. Because of how he was, his fellow randonneurs often went to him for advice, for Matthew would always be there to help you in need. He was a fun-loving adventure companion and would share candy peach rings or sing show-tunes to inspire his fellows during those particularly arduous portions of the ride. On August 9th 2014 Matthew was participating in the California Central Coast Brevet, a 750 mile ride to be completed within 90 continuous hours. Matthew was 40 miles away from completion when he was killed on Foxen Canyon Road at 7:30pm.
I remember the last time I spoke to him was a few days before and we talked about the purchase of his new cell phone. A cell phone. It was the last time I was going to speak with him and that’s what we talked about. Something stupid and meaningless that is now fraught with so much meaning I can barely think about that conversation without breaking down. No one could have known, not me, certainly not Matthew.
While at a rest stop near Lompoc, Matthew settled in for lunch and took a selfie that he sent to his fiance, around noon on August 9th along with how much he missed her. That is the last picture we have of him alive. What strikes me the hardest is: no one could have possibly known. How we all went about our lives without realizing our lives were about to change. Not just change, but break. How nothing important was said or will ever get a chance to be said. I have to live with that. Someone forced me to live with that.
I wasn’t informed of the accident until the next day, on August 10th. I ignored the first few calls because I was volunteering at an animal shelter, then I received a text from my younger brother: Craig call dad ASAP. I felt the gravity of the text, excused myself and called. The weight of Matthew’s passing crushed the wind out of me. I felt heavy, as if a building had collapsed on me.
Our family attended each of the juvenile court dates for the teenage driver who struck and killed my brother. He was driving a Chevy 3500 truck and towing a horse trailer, a combination that he was not licensed to operate. He received a sentence of one year of formal probation from the Juvenile Courts system along with community service. I understand that there was no malice on his part, and I do not seek revenge. The driver will have to live with this for the rest of his life. It is my sincere hope that he is able to use this period of probation to rehabilitate himself and to warn others of the dangers of thoughtless reckless driving. This accident has already ended one life, it doesn’t need to take another.
I am not sure if wounds like this ever really heal. In fact, a part of me wants it never to heal. I don’t ever want to forget how much it hurts to not have Matthew in my life. I accept that he is gone. In doing that, I have to accept the pain that goes with it. His loss is now a part of who I am, who we have all become from this tragedy.
Learn more about Matthew:
By Krista Munizich, his mother
As I sit on my porch, I continue to hear the much too familiar whirring sound of cars speeding up and down our street on the Westside of Santa Barbara. I see countless drivers distracted on their cell phones, and others tailgating cars that drive the speed limit. Our streets have become a place of selfishly dangerous acts, lacking any consideration for the well-being of others.
My son Tanner, who was 17 at the time, was hit by a careless driver on February 22, 2014. He was hit while crossing the street near our house. Instead of making it to the curb on his two feet, he landed on his face. He flew over the length of the car that hit him and landed flat on his back in the middle of the street. Another car came down the street from the opposite direction, his instinct was to get out of the way as quickly as possible and he dove onto the gravel over the curb. My other son was a few feet behind him and luckily he was not hit. However, the emotional turmoil he has endured has been equally horrible. He witnessed his big brother following all of the street safety rules we instilled only to have them be shattered by a selfish driver. The first vehicle stopped for my son standing at the corner and signaled him to cross. Behind the stopped vehicle drove an impatient young female who dangerously crossed over the yellow bumps, put in place to deter drivers from driving in the manner in which she drove, and angrily sped around the stopped vehicle. She did not see my son as she hit him because she was looking back to yell at the driver of the car she passed.
My son’s life was changed that day. His running career ended that day. He went from running sixty miles a week to not running at all. He suffered back, neck and leg injuries. He had headaches and difficulty processing information for many months. Vision Zero has a mission which will support ending the unnecessary life changing pain that my family has suffered.