Physician dies after bike collides with semi-truck near SLO

The driver of the truck, left, talks with the trailer owner about the crash that killed a bicyclist  at South Higuera Street and Ontario Road on Wednesday.
The driver of the truck, left, talks with the trailer owner about the crash that killed a bicyclist at South Higuera Street and Ontario Road on Wednesday. jmellom@thetribunenews.com

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated Dr. James Hannah's title. He is Sierra Vista's chief of staff. Also, a quote made by email was incorrectly attributed to Darlene O’Connor and should have been attributed to Hannah. A memo to hospital staff about the accident involving Dr. Damian Horstman was from Sierra Vista CEO Candy Markwith, not hospital spokesman Ron Yukelson.

Dr. Damian Horstman, who was killed in a bicycle accident Wednesday morning near San Luis Obispo, was described by co-workers as an excellent physician and a superb athlete.

Horstman, 39, was riding his bicycle at the intersection of South Higuera Street and Ontario Road at 8 a.m. when he collided with a truck. He was thrown from the bike onto the roadway.

He was taken to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center, where he died a short time later. Horstman was an anesthesiologist at Sierra Vista and was scheduled to become that department’s chief of staff in January.

“He was just a really smart guy and one of the sharpest docs I’ve met, very agreeable and analytic,” said Dr. James Hannah, the hospital’s current chief of staff. “He was also a terrific cyclist and triathlete. He did the Arizona Ironman (triathlon event) last year and finished among the top of the nonprofessionals.”

Horstman graduated from the UC Davis School of Medicine and completed his residency at Stanford University. He joined the Sierra Vista staff in February 2008.

Horstman served in several leadership roles at the hospital, said Ron Yukelson, associate hospital administrator. These included chairman of the anesthesia department and vice chief of that department’s staff for the past two years.

“In addition to his enthusiasm and infectious manner, he brought much knowledge and valuable teaching to the Sierra Vista operating room, highlighted by his interest in acute pain management,” according to a memo sent to hospital staff.

In addition to his medical degree, Horstman held an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering and a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering.

Horstman is survived by his wife, Jennifer, of Pismo Beach, and two young children. Funeral and memorial services are pending.

“All of us who spent time with Damian will miss his wit, keen intelligence and skills,” Hannah said in an email.

According to the CHP, Horstman was riding a Cervelo Ritchey bicycle northbound on Ontario Road, approaching the intersection with South Higuera Street. A Mack semi-truck driven by Salvador G. Sandoval, 51, of Santa Maria was southbound on South Higuera, preparing to enter Highway 101.

Horstman entered the intersection without stopping and rode into the path of the truck and struck its right-front side as Sandoval braked and swerved to the left, the CHP said in a news release.

The truck left the roadway and traveled down a small embankment before stopping. Investigators say Sandoval does not appear to have been speeding and was not at fault.

Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune