Sacramento Superior Court Judge Matthew Gary offered a brief account of a November fatal crash in a 911 recording released this week by the California Highway Patrol.
“I’ve got a bicycle down,” Gary tells the dispatcher. “I just hit a bicycle.”
The recording includes the first publicly released remarks by Gary about the accident that killed 66-year-old Margaret Bengs on Nov. 2. Gary has repeatedly declined requests for comment about the crash on Fair Oaks Boulevard and Kenneth Avenue in Carmichael.
Last week, CHP said it could not release the recording because it “could jeopardize the successful completion of an ongoing investigation.” This week the agency released an edited version of the recording. CHP spokeswoman Officer Jenna Berry said CHP determined this week that nothing in the recording had an effect on the investigation.
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An initial CHP narrative of the crash drew scrutiny from Bengs’ family and cycling advocates who suggested the agency was too quick to blame Bengs for what happened. The CHP acknowledged it erred on Bengs’ date of death, while relatives and advocates said CHP also was wrong when it said Bengs was not wearing a helmet.
CHP has said that it is conducting an impartial investigation.
Bengs previously served as a speechwriter for former Gov. George Deukmejian and former Attorney General Dan Lungren, and she was an op-ed contributor to The Sacramento Bee.
Gary was one of nine people to call 911 following the accident that occurred around 8 a.m. on a busy section of Fair Oaks Boulevard. None of the callers offer much detail about the crash, and the judge’s account is limited, too.
According to CHP’s initial account, Gary made a left-hand turn in his Toyota Tundra onto Fair Oaks Boulevard from a stop sign on Kenneth Avenue and hit Bengs, who was attempting to cross Fair Oaks from the opposite side of the street. Witnesses said she was hit in the center turn lane.
On the 911 recording, the dispatcher asks Gary if he witnessed the accident.
“Yeah, I’m the one who pulled out,” Gary replies. “She was riding across the street.”
“She came out in front of you?” the dispatcher asks.
Gary then urges the dispatcher to send paramedics. “She is not talking,” he said. “She’s in bad shape.”
Anthony Haire, who lives on Kenneth Avenue near the accident site, said in an interview Wednesday that he crossed Fair Oaks Boulevard on foot and saw Bengs waiting to cross on her bike. Haire said he made eye contact with Gary across the street, and saw the judge was going to let him walk across before making his turn.
Haire said he had almost reached the other side of Fair Oaks Boulevard when he heard the crash behind him. He did not see the crash.
“I think he saw me but did not see her,” Haire said.