A driver who saw the tragic collision that took the life of Vancouver teacher Adam Joy has come forward to try and set the record straight.
On June 10th, Joy was biking with his young son on Wallace Road NW in rural Polk County when he was involved in a collision with the driver of a Ford F-350 truck. Joy was hit from behind and did not survive. A woman who saw it happen is frustrated because she believes the official account shared by the Oregon State Police (and parroted by media outlets statewide) is false.
As we reported last week, the police statement issued on June 12th included a number statements about what they believed took place. “The bicyclist fell over, into the lane of travel, just as the F-350 passed,” the OSP statement reads. “Even though the F-350 had slowed when passing, the rider of the bicycle was run over by the F-350.” (Note: Oregon law says drivers must give bicycle riders enough space when passing so that if they were to fall over a driver would not hit them.)
The F-350 was being driven by McMinnville resident Robert Weeks. Given that the police didn’t see what happened and that the other party in the collision was unable to speak, it seems as though the OSP simply accepted Weeks’ version of what happened. They then issued a statement. The media repeated that statement. And the narrative — that Joy, a highly experienced bicycle rider, just happened to fall over right as a large truck passed him — was set.
But based on a conversation I had this morning with someone who saw the entire crash unfold from a close distance, what actually happened might have been much different.
A woman named RM (I’m using fake initials because she asked to remain anonymous) says she was driving her Chrysler Pacific minivan north on Wallace Road on Saturday and had just passed Hopewell Road when she began to see oncoming traffic come into her lane. Then she realized why: There were two bicycle riders on the southbound shoulder heading toward her.
“So I was scooting over onto the shoulder a bit to let people have enough room to go into the middle of the road,” RM recalled. “I had done this for three cars before I saw the truck.”
As Weeks and his F-350 approached RM’s minivan, she realized something wasn’t right. “I was like, ‘Oh, that truck is going pretty fast,'”. So RM slowed even more (as did the car in front of her). Then she noticed Adam Joy look back over his shoulder toward the oncoming truck.
“The truck [which RM described as a “big fricking truck”] never moved over. And then he clipped him. It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen. It was very obvious that [the truck driver] didn’t stop or swerve,” RM said.
RM then pulled over, called 911 and waited for police to show up. She wanted to share what she saw with OSP troopers who arrived at the scene; but says she (along with at least one other witness) was told to leave the scene (this could have been due to safety concerns given the road is narrow and there’s no shoulder). She left her phone number and was told she would be called for a statement. RM then read about the crash in the news and was disturbed to learn the OSP statement didn’t match what she saw.
“It bothered me. Why would they say that? Why would they say that? They’re saying he fell into the road. If that was my family, I would want to know exactly what happened. I feel like they’re protecting the driver.”
She has tried for over a week to contact various law enforcement officials to share her story, but has not been able to do so. She has left messages and has not heard back. She has reached full voicemail boxes.
BikePortland tried to call the Polk County DA’s office, but no one picked up and there’s no option to leave a voice message. Emails to DA Aaron Felton have not yet been returned. Inquiries to the OSP have been referred to the DA’s office.
RM won’t give up. She wants the public — and more importantly, the family — to know what she saw.
“I feel for that man and his family so much,” she told me. “For everything that I saw, he was doing everything right. He was checking, he was all the way over. This truck did not move over any… any little bit.”
UPDATE, 6/23: I’ve spoken to OSP Capt. Kyle Kennedy about this witness. He says they have every intention of doing a full investigation and all facts will be considered. I can also confirm that they have gotten in touch with RM and have taken her statement. “It will be documented and considered during the course of the investigation,” Kennedy said. Stay tuned.