PALMDALE – A teenager riding his bicycle to soccer practice Monday afternoon was struck and killed by a school bus in a Palmdale intersection.
The fatal collision happened around 3:54 p.m. Monday at the intersection of Avenue R and 55th Street East, according to California Highway Patrol spokesman Gil Hernandez.
A school bus filled with students was traveling westbound on Avenue R, at approximately 45 miles per hour, while a bicyclist was traveling southbound on 55th Street East, Hernandez said.
“The bicyclist came to a complete stop at the posted stop sign at the intersection then proceeded through the intersection directly into the path of the school bus,” Hernandez said.
The teen was thrown from his bicycle onto the roadway and sustained severe injuries, Hernandez said. He was transported to a local hospital where he died a short time later.
The victim was a recent graduate of Pete Knight High School, and he had been riding his bicycle to soccer practice at Domenic Massari Park, according to his close friend and soccer teammate Daniel Yepez.
“He was pretty much a brother to all of us, I’m just so shaken up,” Yepez said through tears.
“He was a fast soccer player, like a prodigy,” said friend Ivan Vera. “He’d always do everything he could for his friends. It sucks to lose somebody that young.”
Many soccer players gathered at the collision scene Monday afternoon to mourn the death of their teammate, whom they said was nicknamed “Speedy” for his agility on the field.
Nearby residents said they were not surprised to hear about the collision.
“There’s always an accident right here on the street by the park where the kids play, because they cross the street all the time,” said Harman Everett. “They need a light here or a crossing guard in the daytime for these kids.”
Everett said he’d personally witnessed at least five accidents in the area in this past year alone.
The school bus that struck the teen had been carrying about 47 students home from Los Amigos Junior High School, according to a school official at the scene. Some of the students were released to their parents and others were transferred to another waiting school bus.
The collision remains under investigation.
Updated 3/26/13: The victim has been identified as 18-year-old Michael J. Valenzuela of Palmdale, according to the Los Angeles Coroner’s Office.
A press report issued by the California Highway Patrol late Monday night put the 54-year-old female bus driver’s speed at about 50 miles per hour. The bus driver swerved left to avoid the collision with the bicycle, but ended up striking the bicycle in the left turn lane of eastbound Avenue R, according to the CHP report.
Updated 3/26/13: A previous version of this story, stated that Valenzuela was coming from his first day of work at Vallarta Supermarket. However, family members at a vigil Tuesday night said Valenzuela was actually coming from a job interview at the store and had not yet started working there.