Kenny McCormick drove by his dying friend Tuesday afternoon at the intersection of Airport Drive and Norris Road.
But at the time he had no idea the man he saw paramedics trying to save — after his collision with a sheriff’s deputy — was Larry Maharrey.
"I would have stopped, if I'd known," McCormick, 46, said. "I loved that man."
The two had been close friends since the Maharreys moved in across the street from McCormick's Oildale home about three years ago.
The diesel mechanic was a good man who "would give you the shirt off his back," McCormick said. If your car wasn't working, he'd saunter over to see how he could be of help.
Maharrey loved beer, the outdoors and NASCAR, McCormick said, and had only recently started riding his motorcycle to work to save money on gas.
He leaves behind a wife, as well as a son, daughter and two stepsons, all grown. The daughter just got married last year, McCormick said.
The family declined to comment Tuesday and did not return telephone calls seeking an interview Wednesday.
FEW NEW DETAILS
While personal details about Maharrey began to emerge Wednesday, there was little new information about the collision that killed him.
California Highway Patrol Officer Robert Rodriguez said investigators were out at Airport and Norris until 4 a.m. Wednesday working the scene.
Sheriff's and CHP officers said the most detailed information won’t be available until after the CHP investigation is completed, which if history with officer-involved crashes repeats could take several months.
Early reports from the CHP said the incident occurred as Kern County Sheriff’s Deputy Marvin Gomez was traveling westbound on Norris Road and trying to turn south onto Airport Drive at about 5:10 p.m. Tuesday.
Gomez was on an emergency call, traveling “code 3” with lights and sirens active, Rodriguez said. He said the Sheriff’s Office hadn’t disclosed the nature of the call by Wednesday afternoon.
After the deputy entered the intersection, Maharrey, riding a new Harley Davidson 1200 motorcycle east on Norris, collided with Gomez’s patrol vehicle. The crash killed Maharrey.
Sheriff’s patrol cars do not have dashboard cameras, Rodriguez said, and information about Gomez’s history with the Sheriff’s Office including driving record were not available Wednesday.
A search of Kern County Superior Court records showed Maharrey had no recent criminal cases against him, but he pled guilty in 1995 to driving at an unsafe speed and driving with a suspended license.
The 59-year-old Oildale man’s death comes in the wake of two other high-profile collisions in Oildale that caused three deaths and millions of dollars in legal liabilities for Kern County.
But Matt Clark, the attorney for the family of Nancy Garrett, which is suing the county of Kern over a Sept. 28 deputy-involved collision that killed her, said people shouldn’t leap to conclusions about Tuesday’s fatal crash.
CHP investigators did a very good job investigating the previous cases, Clark said, and his clients were committed to waiting for the CHP’s findings before they decided to file a suit.
“They specifically said, ’Don’t rush to judgment,’” Clark said. “They asked us to wait and we did.”
But, Clark said, deputies have a duty to make sure they don’t endanger the lives of the public in the course of responding to calls.
McCormick said he was outraged when he found out the accident involved a Kern County sheriff's deputy.
“I don't care, lights and sirens or not, you stop to make sure the intersection is clear,” he said.
Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood would not speak Wednesday about Tuesday’s accident, referring questions on the investigation to the CHP and about his office’s policy to Kern County Counsel Theresa Goldner.
Goldner said the county hasn’t been sitting on its hands following the tragic crashes in 2011 and 2014.
She said Youngblood has implemented a new system for tracking deputies’ driving habits and holding them accountable for excessive speed.
Vehicle speed is tracked by GPS and both routine and random audits of deputies’ speed when they are “code 3” are conducted. Deputies who are driving at excessive speeds can lose the right to take their patrol vehicles home when they are off-duty, Goldner said.
“You have the sheriff doing the right thing, displaying great leadership to increase the safety of the public,” she said. “Incidents of driving at excessive speeds while on code 3 have dropped by over 90 percent.”
But part of the policy has received push-back.
Goldner said the Kern Law Enforcement Association, the union that represents deputies, has challenged the policy and won an arbitration decision.
Marc Haiungs, president of the KLEA, said the union met with the sheriff and signed off on the speed audits.
“We were well aware after the second accident that the sheriff’s hands were tied,” he said. “People should not be driving at speeds that would endanger the public.”
He said KLEA has a problem with the sheriff’s chosen method of punishment.
Take-home patrol vehicles are an off-duty perk, Haiungs said, and shouldn’t be tied to on-duty performance issues.
Courtenay Edelhart of The Californian contributed to this story.