NTSB report casts doubt on driver’s claim that truck’s steering locked in crash that killed cyclists

Feb 28, 2024, 3:12 PM

GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) — A newly released report on last year’s fatal crash involving a pickup truck and a group of bicyclists near Phoenix has cast doubts about the driver’s claim that the vehicle’s steering locked up.

The National Transportation Safety Board released a report Tuesday on the Feb. 25, 2023, crash on a Goodyear bridge that left two bicyclists dead and 17 others injured.

According to the report, the truck’s steering worked fine when the NTSB watched a technician drive the vehicle, and the Arizona Department of Public Safety also found nothing wrong with the steering.

The truck driver — identified as Pedro Quintana-Lujan — was originally booked into a Phoenix jail on suspicion of two counts of manslaughter, three counts of aggravated assault, 18 counts of endangerment and two counts of causing serious injury or death by a moving violation.

Quintana-Lujan was later released after Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell sent the case back to Goodyear police.

Police eventually completed their investigation — saying the incident appeared to be an accident — and sent the case back to Mitchell’s office. On Nov. 30, the office said it wouldn’t pursue felonies against Quintana-Lujan and instead referred the case to the Goodyear’s city prosecutor.

It was unclear Wednesday if Quintana-Lujan, now 27, will be charged again by Goodyear authorities in light of the NTSB report.

Email messages sent to Goodyear authorities weren’t immediately returned and neither was a request for comment sent to an email address believed to belong to Quintana-Lujan.

A spokesperson for the Maricopa County Attorney’s office said it had nothing to add to the NTSB report and emphasized that Mitchell earlier noted that two independent evaluations of the vehicle had found no issues.

Quintana-Lujan originally told police that he was headed to work with materials he picked up for a job and his truck was hauling a trailer when it crashed into the group of 20 bicyclists on the Cotton Lane Bridge in Goodyear, located about 19 miles (30 kilometers) west of Phoenix.

Quintana-Lujan said he was driving in the left of two northbound lanes when his steering locked and he drifted into the vacant right lane, then into the adjacent bike lane where he heard “a sound similar to metal.”

Police said reconstruction of the collision determined that when the driver entered the bike lane, he also struck the concrete barrier that separates the roadway from a sidewalk — leaving black tire marks halfway up the wall and striking several cyclists.

The crash shook the area’s avid cyclists, who encourage other riders to travel in large groups for improved protection.

Last Sunday, some survivors of the crash joined other bicyclists for a commemorative ride in Goodyear.

“I think it will not be a start, but it will bring an end and bring an emotional closure,” said Clay Wells, who cycled with the group for the first time since he was injured in the crash. “It’s been a long time coming.”

National News

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NTSB report casts doubt on driver’s claim that truck’s steering locked in crash that killed cyclists