Sunday, July 20, 2008

Residents say fatal crash bound to happen

By Kari Griffin
Baytown Sun

Published July 19, 2008

Some Chaparral Village residents who haven’t witnessed the “racing” reported by their neighbors insisted the mountain of an issue was merely a molehill.

But the folks keeping watch at night, writing down license plate numbers and following “racers” to their hangout predicted Thursday’s fatal accident months ago.

This was bound to happen, they just didn’t know when, residents said.

Around 9:20 p.m. Thursday, a Packsaddle resident called 911 to report that a motorcyclist had driven through a wooden fence and into a backyard. The man, 34-year-old Baytown resident Christopher Ramon Shaw, was unconscious — his leg torn off.

Life Flight was contacted and en route when Baytown police officers arrived at the gruesome scene and found that Shaw was dead.

Skid marks are visible two blocks away from the fence Shaw struck when he lost control of the 2008 blue Yamaha R1 he was driving westbound in the 1300 block of Packsaddle Lane. Shaw was separated from his bike and found some distance past the fence of the corner house, one of three homes sitting where Chaparral Drive curves into Packsaddle.

Lt. Eric Freed of the Baytown Police Department said the preliminary accident investigation reveals, “speed was a factor in this accident.”

Officers estimated that the helmet-less Shaw was traveling at about 100 mph when he crashed the vehicle. Shaw was also operating the motorcycle, (which neighbors say he didn’t own), illegally.

“He should not have been operating the motorcycle without a Class-M endorsement,” which he did not have, Freed said.

Freed also confirmed that not only was Shaw not the registered owner of the motorcycle he was operating, the Baytown man was driving with a suspended license.

Shaw’s driving privileges were taken away after he was found driving without insurance and without a valid license.

Freed said Shaw had an “extensive driving history” that included 36 entries on his license – meaning documentation such as citations and notices of surcharges or various infractions.

“It’s a lot more than usual,” Freed said. “Driving histories don’t usually have this many entries.”

Freed could not confirm that Shaw had been reported racing in Chaparral Village, or that the accident was connected to the reported street-racing, but residents who have been keeping track of the activity believe Shaw was the first Chaparral street-racing victim.

Chaparral Village resident Barbara Deanda, who has witnessed the “street-racing,” was at the fatal scene.

“He was racing,” Deanda said. “He wasn’t racing anybody,” but he was racing just the same.

Since summer started, Chaparral residents have hosted meetings to address the street-racing situation. When they see it going on, they call the police.

But by the time officers get there, the racers are long gone.

“It’s horrendous,” Deanda said of the racing problem. “We have all said that it’s an accident waiting to happen.”

Resident Tom Cottar has also watched as vehicles ignore stop signs and travel through the residential area at high speed, and was disappointed by the lack of support citizens have had in ending the dangerous activity.

Those trying to fight the problem have said all along that somebody was going to get killed, Cottar said.

Other residents said they feel the issue has been “played-down” and they’ve been treated as though they were crying wolf.

But in many of their minds, the odds of someone dying as a result of the “racing” were so high that Shaw’s death, while tragic, really came as no surprise. This tragedy is what residents have feared since they first started losing sleep from sounds of screeching tires nearly a year ago.

“Maybe now they’ll believe us,” Deanda said.

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