SANTA MARIA, Calif. - The 16-year-old son of former Lieutenant Governor and Santa Maria Mayor Abel Maldonado will be charged with vehicular manslaughter following the accidental death of a Carpinteria cyclist in August.
Maldonado's son was driving a pickup pulling a horse trailer on Foxen Canyon Road East of Dominion at the time of the accident. California Highway Patrol investigators determined he clipped a recumbent bicycle ridden by Matthew O'Neill, 33, from Carpinteria. The impact threw O'Neill from the cycle, killing him.
The Santa Barbara County District Attorney's office declined to name the driver of the pickup since the case will be heard in juvenile court, but KCOY 12 has confirmed he is the son of the former Lt. Governor. The accident report from the scene showed the passenger in the vehicle was another Maldonado son, 18-year-old Nicolas.
"The District Attorney has reviewed the case and we have been informed that her office will be filing charges. We are grateful to her office and to the investigating agents for the time and energy they have spent investigating and reviewing this matter. We are confident that the criminal justice system will hold those at fault for the death of Matthew accountable for their actions," said Jennifer Passwater, O'Neill's fiancee.
"He was irreplaceable, we all have a Matthew-sized hole in our hearts that can never be filled. He would have given the shirt off his back for a friend and now he's given his life so that we can save other cyclists, other pedestrians and other people who have right to be on the road," she said.
At the time he died, O'Neill was ten months away from earning his second PhD in Disabilities and Risk Studies at UC-Santa Barbara.
"He planned to be a professor and a researcher," Passwater said. "He wanted to teach teachers like myself how to give a voice to our students that might not be able to speak for themselves. He was a lifelong student dedicated to bringing about positive change for individuals with disabilities."
"Matthew O'Neill was the consummate randonneur," said close cycling friend Stacy Kline. "He was the soul of Pacific Coast Highway Randonneurs cycling club and he was beloved worldwide."
"Matthew was driving legally and very safely," Kline said. "This was a very preventable accident."
As of Wednesday afternoon, members of the Maldonado family had not made any public comment on the charges or the accident.