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UPDATE: Cyclist killed in Placerita Canyon was beloved math teacher

Posted: May 26, 2016 9:32 a.m.
Updated: May 26, 2016 5:18 p.m.
An Eddy Merckx bicycle belonging to Arroyo Seco Junior High School teacher Roderick Bennett lies on Placerita Canyon Road on Wednesday where the instructor was hit and killed by a motorist who left the scene. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze An Eddy Merckx bicycle belonging to Arroyo Seco Junior High School teacher Roderick Bennett lies on Placerita Canyon Road on Wednesday where the instructor was hit and killed by a motorist who left the scene. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze
An Eddy Merckx bicycle belonging to Arroyo Seco Junior High School teacher Roderick Bennett lies on Placerita Canyon Road on Wednesday where the instructor was hit and killed by a motorist who left the scene. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze
Rod Bennett with his bike in a photo taken during the Amgen Tour of California bike race.  Rod Bennett with his bike in a photo taken during the Amgen Tour of California bike race. 
Rod Bennett with his bike in a photo taken during the Amgen Tour of California bike race. 
The California Highway Patrol has released a photo of the suspected hit-and-run vehicle in the death of a school teacher on Placerita Canyon Road on Wednesday. The California Highway Patrol has released a photo of the suspected hit-and-run vehicle in the death of a school teacher on Placerita Canyon Road on Wednesday.
The California Highway Patrol has released a photo of the suspected hit-and-run vehicle in the death of a school teacher on Placerita Canyon Road on Wednesday.
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A “well-loved, well-respected” teacher at Arroyo Seco Junior High School has been identified as the cyclist killed in a hit-and-run traffic collision on Placerita Canyon Road on Wednesday, school and law enforcement officials said Thursday.

Roderick Bennett, 53, a math teacher and recently the school’s music teacher who has taught at Arroyo Seco since 1999, died at the scene on Placerita Canyon Road where his bicycle was hit by a vehicle.

“He was very well-loved, (a) well-respected member of the school,” said Dave Caldwell, spokesman for the William S. Hart Union High School District.

“We have counselors and administrative staff on hand today to handle the (counseling) needs of students and staff,” Caldwell said Thursday.

The Signal’s Facebook page began filling up Thursday with praise for the longtime teacher as news of Bennett’s death became known.

Randy Thompson wrote: “Mr. Bennett was a shining light to many students and staff, including my daughter, who is in her first year of beginning band. She’s absolutely devastated.”

Sarah Terpstra wrote: “He was my daughter’s music teacher earlier in the year and her heart is broken. Thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends. I had the pleasure of meeting him once at the beginning of the year and he seemed to be a wonderful man and the students in his class loved him. RIP”

Anne E. Richter wrote: “Mr. Bennett was the best! We have all been cheated because of his death. There are no words to describe how I feel. He was my son’s mentor and music teacher. We love you Mr. Bennett!”

The fatal crash happened around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday when a motorist traveling eastbound on Placerita Canyon Road east of Highway 14 approached Bennett on his blue Eddy Merckx bicycle, California Highway Patrol Officer Josh Greengard said.

Bennett died at the scene.

On Thursday the California Highway Patrol released a photo, apparently taken from surveillance video, of the suspect vehicle. While the photo’s image quality was poor, it appeared to be a dark-colored Lexus.

A CHP description of the vehicle said it was a dark gray late-model Lexus, possibly a CT200h, with right front-end damage including a cracked windshield.

Bennett was riding to the far right on the eastbound lane of Placerita Canyon Road in front of the car, Greengard wrote in the news release.

“For reasons unknown, the (gray) sedan collided into the rear of Bennett,” he said. The vehicle continued eastbound on Placerita Canyon Road, fleeing the scene.

CHP officers made a personal plea Thursday to the driver of the hit-and-run vehicle.

“For the driver involved in yesterday’s bike collision, please contact the local law enforcement,” CHP Officer Eric Priessman said in an interview Thursday.

“Contact the CHP,” he said. “You can call the Newhall office at 661-294-5540 or you can dial 911.”

Priessman also had advice for motorists concerned about sharing the road with bicyclists.

“If you’re traveling on a city street that does not necessarily have a bicycle lane, you need to pass that vehicle at least three feet away from the bicycle rider,” he said.

“A good measure of thumb for that: If you think the bicycle rider can reach out his hand and touch your car, you probably need to be further away than that.

“If you can’t move over because of oncoming traffic or a vehicle next to you, the law requires you to slow down so that you’re passing that bicycle at no more than 15 miles an hour more than what the bicycle is going.”

For motorists who hit a bicyclist, the message is simple, he said: Stop.

“When you’re involved in a collision with another vehicle or someone else’s property or somebody’s animal, the law requires you to stop and exchange information and render aid to that person if they need to.

“It’s very important — you need to stop and find out what’s going on,” Priessman said. “You don’t need to run from us; that’s only going to make matters worse.

“If they need 911 assistance you need to call 911 and get that going for them,” he said.

[email protected]
661-287-5527
on Twitter @jamesarthurholt

 

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