Man killed in ATV crash is fourth death at Oceano Dunes this year

Off-road enthusiasts ride quads at Oceano Dunes SRVA in 2014. Four park visitors have died in ATV accidents this year.
Off-road enthusiasts ride quads at Oceano Dunes SRVA in 2014. Four park visitors have died in ATV accidents this year. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

A 42-year-old man from Richmond died Sunday in an ATV collision at Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area — the fourth fatality this year at the park.

Francisco Javier Gonzales Casillas died about 11:30 a.m. from injuries suffered in the crash, said Brent Marshall, the state park’s superintendent.

Marshall said park officials are investigating whether speeding may have played a role in Gonzales Casillas’ death, which will take “some additional time.”

This year’s spike in fatalities comes after the state park recorded only one fatality in each of the previous two years.

Marshall said the park is looking into ways to make driving on the beach and dunes safer.

“We are considering additional safety measures but have not finalized any plans at this time,” he said.

About 1.5 million people have visited the park so far this year. The park is expected to exceed last year’s 1.6 million visitors, Marshall said. Off-road vehicle enthusiasts have been flocking there on weekends because of this year’s warm weather and an improved economy.

A Bay Area man, 21-year-old Erwin Baker, died over Easter weekend this year after crashing when he drove his ATV off a 15- to 20-foot slip face.

A 27-year-old Fresno resident, Leo Esqueda, died in a rollover wreck on Aug. 30 when he failed to navigate a steep dune and lost control of his vehicle, which rolled down the dune face. Esqueda and his passenger, who has not been identified, were thrown from the vehicle as it rolled. The passenger was hospitalized but survived the crash.

The fourth person to die at the Dunes this year was José Raul Sanchez Garcia on Sept. 4.

Last year, on Dec. 28, Grover Beach resident Byron Tatum was killed when another vehicle struck him after he got out of his 1969 GMC truck to remove a flag on a straight stretch of the beach.

Tatum’s daughter, Kathryn Tatum, filed a lawsuit against Dustin Van Phillips, the driver who allegedly caused the accident, and his employer, Luv2Camp.

The suit claimed Van Phillips, who was driving a 2002 Chevy Suburban on behalf of his employer, became distracted and looked down. When he looked up again, his vehicle crushed Tatum against the GMC truck.