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June 28, 2022

Gilroy School District officials involved in accident with SJB man on US 101

An SUV carrying five school district employees was rear-ended by
another driver on U.S. Highway 101 Monday in a crash similar to the
one that killed a Gilroy man there last week.
An SUV carrying five school district employees was rear-ended by another driver on U.S. Highway 101 Monday in a crash similar to the one that killed a Gilroy man there last week.

Richard Simpson, a physical education teacher at Brownell Academy Middle School, was driving his own 2004 Chevy Suburban southbound on 101, south of Sixth Street near the Tenth Street exit, at about 10 mph in the third lane from the left. Traffic in that section of the highway slows during peak hours, and Caltrans was preparing to start an ongoing construction project in the area.

Also in the vehicle were Gilroy Unified School District Superintendent Edwin Diaz, Gilroy High School teacher and football coach Darren Yafai, GHS Athletic Director Jack Daley, and Facilities Planning and Construction Manager Charlie Van Meter. They were traveling from San Jose Mineta International Airport – Yafai and Daley had gone to Southern California to look at artificial field turf – and were headed to GHS to discuss upgrades to the football stadium there.

Stewart Scott, 39, of San Juan Bautista, was approaching the Suburban in a 1996 Audi. He was traveling at a higher rate of speed, about 55 mph, according to the California Highway Patrol, and applied his brakes at the last moment. Scott could not stop in time to avoid a collision, rear-ended the Suburban, and careened off the west edge of the highway and struck a large tree on the grass shoulder.

“It was a pretty significant collision,” said Officer Matt Ramirez of CHP. “(The Acura) hit the Suburban well enough where they both careened off the road.”

The Audi’s airbags deployed and Scott suffered a broken left hand and neck pain. He was transported to Saint Louise Regional Hospital.

Ramirez said it was cloudy and raining lightly at the time, which was probably the major factor in the crash.

“With the rain and the wet weather, people driving on 101, they don’t have the mindset that they need to slow down,” Ramirez said. “It’s just one of these things where it’s a wet roadway and it’s difficult to stop.”

Monday’s crash was quite similar to one last Thursday, Nov. 4, in which a driver traveling southbound near Tenth Street did not see slow-moving traffic ahead. Louis Masoni, 80, of Gilroy, died in that accident after trying unsuccessfully to swerve to the right to avoid a big rig.

With Caltrans working on re-paving much of the highway, there are numerous signs with flashing lights alerting drivers of the construction and the need to slow down, Ramirez said.

“The main thing is that traffic was normal for that time of day, and may have been a little busier because of the construction going on,” he said.

The five GUSD employees had complaints of pain, and told the CHP they would seek their own medical attention.

“Now I know what whiplash feels like,” Van Meter said Tuesday. “We’re just fortunate we were wearing our seat belts like we were supposed to.”

Lori Stuenkel is a staff writer. Reach her at 408-847-7158 or [email protected]

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