What a difference a day makes

The following is a detailed examination of how the accuracy of the account of Casey Moe's death severely eroded between the time the Examiner filed its report the day of the accident and the Chronicle filed its report, nearly 24 hours later - after relying on a briefing from the San Francisco Police Department.

If accepted as fact, the Chronicle's remarkably inaccurate portrayal of the circumstances surrounding the death of Casey Moe materially reduces the legal and public relations liabilities of JC Decaux, a patron of both the Chronicle and Willie Brown.

Imagine how this story would have played if accurately presented: a JC Decaux driver, driving with a suspended license and suspected of having been speeding, struck and killed a professional bicycle messenger in a downtown crosswalk during the morning rush hour. Bike messenger Casey Moe, 25, is survived by a one year old son.

  • The official account doesn't add up. See for yourself
  • Chronicle's version proven false - just as our analysis of the accident scene predicted
  • The marginalization of the lives of
    cyclists and pedestrians
    - by Charles Komanoff
  • Bike Messengers
  • Why is fairness and accuracy in the media for cyclists so hard to achieve?

  • Issue
    Examiner 8/28 (same day)
    Chronicle 8/29 (next day)
    Comments on Chronicle's version
    Ownership of van JC Decaux "delivery van" JC Decaux is a billboard/newstand/public toilet company with extremely close ties to both newspapers and Mayor Brown. Calling the vehicle involved "a delivery van" is not accurate.
    Location of accident On Market between First and Second "On Market Street - when he attempted to cross the westbound lanes onto Sansome Street according to police and witnesses" FALSE. No police officer saw this and no witness whose account appeared in either paper said this.
    How far was Moe thrown 17 feet - according to eye witness Curtis Reid 15 to 20 feet - according to Sergeant Mike Mahoney, not an eye witness SIGNIFICANT. The distance from the eastern boundry of the crosswalk to where Moe was found is approximately 50 feet. Photograph

    This distance needs exact measurement, but it seems clear that Moe was struck, not making a turn onto Sansome as reported, but in or very near the crosswalk. Anyone who bothered to examine the accident scene could ascertain this in about 15 seconds.

    Speed van was traveling in a congested 25 m.p.h. zone Not mentioned Not mentioned At least as important as whether or not Moe made an illegal left turn
    Status of driver's license Not mentioned Suspended. Driver was given a blood test. Results not available at time of report. Reason for suspension not given. What are the legal ramifications for a company that allows drivers with suspended licenses to operate commercial vehicles within the city limits of San Francisco? How common is this practice at JC Decaux and other companies in San Francisco. Point not raised.
    Paragraphs devoted to cyclists who violate traffic laws vs. motorists who do Two paragraphs vs. zero paragraphs Two paragraphs vs. zero paragraphs Examiner did quote a bicycle messenger regarding the crowded and hazradous nature of downtown streets. "Market Street has buses, trucks, cars, pedestrians, grates and Muni islands- they're the worst and you have to dodge them all. Sometimes there's no place to go.Photograph
    Was Moe wearing a helmet? Not sure. No. Conclusively. FALSE. He was wearing a helmet. This information was readily available from spokespeople at San Francisco General Hospital with whom the Chronicle spoke.
    Eye witnesses quoted Five. Four named. One unnamed. Zero. Why not seek eye witnesses?
    Police officers quoted One. Officer Joe Finnigan. Two. Sergeant Mike Mahoney. Officer John Fulwood. What happened to Officer Finnigan? Why did Officer Fulwood make a point of directing the Chronicle's attention to bicyclists making illegal left turns onto Sansome from Market? Photograph
    Age of Moe's son Four. Four. FALSE Casey Moe's only son just turned one. He was in town with the boy's mother to visit his father for his upcoming birthday (unverified, reported by friend and roommate.)


    Updates to the original analysis

    Update - September 14, 1997: Based on our findings from interviews conducted September 10 and 12 (see below), we revisited the accident scene to see if the alternative version of events - which did not make it to the news - fit the scene. Our conclusion: if the police report of where Casey Moe was struck is accurate, it is possible, if not probable, that he was struck either crossing at the crosswalk or hit from behind while traveling with the flow of traffic, not making an illegal turn into oncoming traffic as was widely reported.

    Update - September 12, 1997: Today we spoke directly with the woman who reported a very different version of events She confirmed that the people she spoke to on the scene said Moe was hit after swerving to avoid hitting a pedestrian who suddenly appeared in his way.

    We also interviewed Larry Hatfield whose Examiner article was significantly more accurate than the Chronicle article which appeared a day later. He stated that, as far as he could tell, none of the people he interviewed actually saw the cause of the accident. As we suspected, the report that Moe was struck while making an illegal left hand turn onto Sansome came from the San Francisco Police Department - not from any eye witness - and the Chronicle repeated this dubious interpretation of events without checking the facts.

    Neither Sergeant Mahoney nor Larry Hatfield said they were aware of the bystanders who reported that Moe was struck while swerving to avoid hitting a pedestrian. If Moe was indeed hit this way, it's possible that rather than traveling east on Market as so many non-eye witnesses have claimed, he may have been traveling west - with the green light - and swerved away from the curb into the path of the van which struck him from the rear. Given the absence of credible eye witnesses and the gross inaccuracy of media reports to date, this is as likely a scenario as any.

    Update - September 10, 1997: After talking with the police, our theory that Moe was hit in or near the crosswalk was verified as fact. In addition, we learned by specifically asking that: 1) the issue of the speed the van was traveling was never raised by the investigating officers and 2) there was a JC Decaux executive on the scene within minutes after the accident - even before Sergeant Mike Mahoney of the "hit and run" unit arrived.

  • Chronicle's version proven false - just as our analysis of the accident scene predicted

  • "Everybody saw it" - Not - The non-eye witnesses speak

  • What really happened to Casey Moe?

  • The marginalization of the lives of
    cyclists and pedestrians
    - by Charles Komanoff

  • Bike Messengers

  • Why is fairness and accuracy in the media for cyclists so hard to achieve?

    Contributions to the family may be sent to:

    Casey Moe Memorial Fund
    c/o SF Fireman's Credit Union
    2390 Market St.
    SF, CA 94114
    Attention: Michelle

    Witnesses sought who saw this accident which occured on August 28th at 8:15/8:25 A.M. on Market Street between First and Second Streets.