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Ex Lt. Governor’s Son Settles Cycling Death Charges

The 16-year-old son of former Lt. Governor and Santa Maria mayor Abel Maldonado will do community service, lose his driver’s license and pay restitution as a result of a traffic accident that killed a Carpinteria cyclist.

Maldonado’s son was driving a pickup pulling a horse trailer on Foxen Canyon Road East of Santa Maria in August. California Highway Patrol investigators believe the trailer clipped a cycle ridden by Matthew O’Neill, 31, who died from the collision’s impact.

The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s office confirmed it had reached the settlement with the younger Maldonado, who had been charged with vehicular manslaughter. State law requires an adult over the age of 25 be present when someone under the age of 18 is driving. The only passenger in the pickup was the 16-year-old’s brother, Nicolas Maldonado, 18.

The younger Maldonado will pay $75,000 in restitution to O’Neill’s family. He was planning to marry his fiancee who lived with him in Carpinteria as he studied at UCSB. The Maldonado teen must also complete 100 hours of community service, and will lose his driver’s license for nine months.

In an earlier interview, O’Neill’s fiancee hoped the accident would bring attention to safety issues where bicyclists and vehicles meet on the road.

“He was irreplaceable, we all have a Matthew-sized hole in our hearts that can never be filled. He would have given the shirt off his back for a friend and now he’s given his life so that we can save other cyclists, other pedestrians and other people who have right to be on the road,” said fiancee Jennifer Passwater.

At the time he died, O’Neill was ten months away from earning his second PhD in Disabilities and Risk Studies.

“He planned to be a professor and a researcher,” Passwater said. “He wanted to teach teachers like myself how to give a voice to our students that might not be able to speak for themselves. He was a lifelong student dedicated to bringing about positive change for individuals with disabilities.”

“Matthew O’Neill was the consummate randonneur,” said close cycling friend Stacy Kline. “He was the soul of Pacific Coast Highway Randonneurs cycling club and he was beloved worldwide.”

“Matthew was driving legally and very safely,” Kline said. “This was a very preventable accident.”

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