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Tuesday, December 18 , 2018, 7:57 pm | Fair 52º


Teen Driver Charged in Death of UCSB Student Cyclist Near Santa Maria

The teenager who was driving a large pickup truck pulling a horse trailer that hit and killed a UCSB grad student on a recumbent bicycle east of Santa Maria last month has been charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter plus two infractions.

The Aug. 9 accident near Foxen Canyon and Dominion roads killed Matthew O’Neill, 33, of Chula Vista.

He lived in Carpinteria while attending UCSB as a graduate student who advocated for people with disabilities.

In addition to misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter, the teen also faces an infraction for driving a commercial vehicle without a license, and an infraction for non-compliance with driving terms and restrictions, according to Kelly Scott, chief deputy district attorney. 

The District Attorney's Office notified O'Neill's family of the charges filed against the teen.

"We are grateful to her office and to the investigating agents for the time and energy they have spent investigating and reviewing this matter," the family said in a written statement  "We are confident that the criminal justice system will hold those at fault for the death of Matthew accountable for their actions."

The teenager will be arraigned on the charges Friday in Santa Maria Juvenile Court, Scott added.

Due to the boy’s age, 16 years old at the time of the accident, authorities are not releasing his name. 

However, he is believed to be one of the sons of former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, who also served as mayor of Santa Maria and lives with his family on rural property east of Santa Maria. 

The California Highway Patrol identified the teen driver’s passenger as Abel Nicholas Maldonado, 18,  another son of the politician.

One of the infractions relates to the passenger's age. 

State law prohibits a teen in the first year of having a driver’s license from transporting passengers under age 20 unless accompanied by a parent or guardian, a licensed driver 25 years of age or older, or a licensed or certified driving instructor, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The other infraction stems from the Chevy 3500 pickup pulling the trailer. A rig’s weight determines whether it is considered a commercial or regular vehicle, according to DMV definition.

This is the second fatal accident involving Nicolas Maldonado, who also was a passenger in the SUV his mother was driving in 2012 near Foxen Canyon and Dominion roads.

At the time, Abel Maldonado was running for Congress.

In that incident, a 32-year-old man failed to the yield the right of way to the Maldonados’ vehicle.

The driver who died, Joseph Scott Scheurn, was later found to be under the influence of methamphetamine at the time of the collision, the CHP said.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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