11/20/2003

CHP Motorcycle Officer Killed in Crash With Truck

Officer Down: Dean Beattie - [San Diego, California]

By Joe Hughes, The San Diego Union-Tribune

Dean Beattie, 46, died of massive head injuries hours after being taken to Sharp Memorial Hospital after the crash at 12:55 p.m. near Genesee Avenue in San Diego.

CHP Commissioner Dwight Helmick, who flew to San Diego yesterday, said Beattie "was a good rider, an experienced rider," who had spent much of his 24-year CHP career in San Diego County. Beattie lived with his family in Ramona.

"He loved the job and he cared about people," Helmick said.

The death was the first of a CHP officer in San Diego County since Stephen Linen was killed by a drunken driver in August 2001 on Interstate 5 in Leucadia. Two motorcycle officers with the San Diego Police Department were killed in separate incidents earlier this year.

Authorities said yesterday's crash happened when Beattie, who had been following the truck in the far right lane of the freeway, struck the slow-moving vehicle.

The truck was traveling about 40 mph, the CHP said. Beattie had just turned on his amber emergency lights and accelerated to about 60 mph when he hit the truck.

"Maybe he was trying to make an enforcement stop. We don't know," CHP Officer Mark Gregg said.

The motorcycle struck the truck near the right rear wheel well. The impact spun the motorcycle, throwing Beattie to the pavement, where he struck his head. His gear, including his flashlight and other equipment, was scattered over several lanes.

Several other vehicles narrowly avoided striking the officer. The truck driver was questioned. Witnesses said it did not appear to them that he did anything wrong. The name of the driver was not released yesterday.

The truck, owned by Ware Disposal Co. of Santa Ana, was impounded. Ware Disposal representatives who knew of the crash could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Gregg said investigators will listen to dispatch tapes to see if there was any communication between Beattie and dispatchers in the moments before the crash.

The CHP closed the northbound lanes at Interstate 8 shortly after the crash. Investigators checked the northbound lanes for anything that could have caused Beattie to lose control of his motorcycle.

The closure forced thousands of motorists to seek alternative routes, and they crammed local streets and other freeways as the rush hour began. Two northbound lanes were reopened by 6 p.m. The other lanes were reopened about 7:30 p.m.

The investigation proceeded as officers were trying to control their emotions.

"This is very hard to deal with," said Gregg, who was visibly shaken. Yesterday marked the third time this year a motorcycle officer in San Diego County suffered fatal injuries while on duty.

San Diego police Officer Gerald Griffin, a member of the department for 17 years, was fatally injured April 15 when he was struck by a car while clocking motorists in Pacific Beach. He died 10 days later at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla after being taken off life support.

A woman has been charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter in connection with the accident.

Veteran San Diego Police motorcycle Officer Terry Bennett was killed June 26 while trying to catch a man who stole a flatbed pickup truck from a construction site in downtown San Diego. In Encanto, the man abruptly made a U-turn and drove directly at Bennett, who tried to get off his motorcycle and avoid the truck but could not. He was struck and thrown against a wall, suffering fatal injuries.

The man accused of killing Bennett has been found mentally incompetent to stand trial and has been sent to a state mental hospital.

San Diego police Detective Barry Eldridge, a 24-year veteran of the force, was killed Aug. 16 on his way to work when his motorcycle collided with a big rig on Miramar Road. Eldridge died at the scene.

Linen, the CHP officer, died after a drunken driver slammed into the back of his parked cruiser at 85 mph on Interstate 5 in Leucadia and then hit Linen.

That happened 10 months after CHP Officer Sean Nava was killed by a drunken driver in October 2000 on I-5 in Carlsbad.

Both drivers were sent to prison.

Staff writer Gregory Alan Gross contributed to this report.
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