Fatal crash on wet roads

Source: The Gilroy Dispatch
Author: Peter Crowley
Date: December 30, 2003

GILROY - A 20-year-old Gilroy man died behind the wheel of a sports car after colliding head-on with a pickup truck minutes after noon Monday on Luchessa Avenue, during a period of heavy rainfall. Jeremy Edward Cooner was a student at De Anza College in Cupertino and was preparing to transfer to San Jose State University in hopes of pursuing a career with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to his parents, Ed and Cindy Cooner. He was a graduate of Lynbrook High School in San Jose, where he was a trumpet player and drum major in the school band. He also recently achieved his black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

“He had an easy way of making friends,” his father said this morning. “He was a quality Christian young man. He had a very vital faith.”

The Cooners moved to Gilroy about three years ago and live on Greenfield Drive, about half a mile from the accident scene. They arrived there, on Luchessa Avenue just east of Princevalle Street, within minutes of the wreck and wept when they heard the news.

Their son had been pinned in the driver’s seat of the red Toyota MR2 sports car he was driving. Paramedics pronounced him dead at 12:17 p.m. The police department’s Major Accident Investigation Team is trying to determine the cause of the wreck and which driver, if either, was at fault. As of Monday afternoon, MAIT officers had identified weather, speed and mechanical issues as possible factors leading to the wreck, according to police Sgt. Kurt Ashley.

“It will probably take them several days to a week” before investigators issue a report, Ashley said - “unless they run into some problems.”

The county coroner’s staff will determine if Jeremy Cooner was intoxicated - standard practice when the death is from a motor-vehicle accident, a staff member there said.

The collision crushed the front driver’s side corner of the Toyota, impacting all of the way back to the driver’s seat. The car came to a rest completely off the road. The other vehicle, a beige Dodge Dakota pickup truck, received heavy front-end damage. The Toyota was eastbound on Luchessa Avenue and the pickup westbound, according to police.

The pickup driver had a sore foot after the wreck but declined medical treatment, according to Ashley. This driver was the sole surviving witness to the accident and gave a statement to police, but police declined to release this statement.

There were no passengers in either vehicle.

Police did not say whether the drivers were wearing seat belts.

Police were called to the scene at 12:08 p.m. and blocked off Luchessa from Princevalle Street to Church Street for several hours Monday afternoon, waiting for a coroner to arrive from San Jose. Jeremy Cooner’s body was removed from the scene at about 3:30 p.m., according to police. The wreckage was towed away and the street reopened soon after.

This fatal accident was one of at least six crashes in the South Valley between 11:30 a.m. and noon Monday, during which heavy rain was falling and accumulating on roadways. During that half-hour period, California Highway Patrol officers responded to five accidents on U.S. 101 between Coyote and San Juan Bautista.