An Australian tourist has been charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter for a fatal crash on state Highway 84 in San Mateo County last week, prosecutors said Wednesday, Sept. 6.
Luke Nardini, 31, made his initial appearance in court Tuesday to face the charges for the crash reported around 5:10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1, on Highway 84 east of Peek-A-Boo Lane.
According to the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office, Nardini was driving a BMW east on the highway when there was a closure of the eastbound lane so he moved into the westbound lane and apparently forgot to move back to the right side of the road since vehicles travel on the left side of the road in Australia.
The California Highway Patrol said a Ford Taurus going west on a blind curve on the two-lane highway collided with the BMW, killing the two passengers in the rear of the Taurus. They have been identified by the county coroner's office as Jack Davis and Linda Davis, both 80-year-old La Honda residents. Two other people in the Taurus were taken to a hospital to be treated for injuries.
Nardini was arrested and charged following the crash and pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Tuesday. Bail has been set at $20,000 and the case was continued to Sept. 19 for a bail motion, with a pre-trial hearing set for Oct. 11 and Nov. 17 as the starting date for the trial, prosecutors said.
An attorney for Nardini was not immediately available to comment on the case.
Nardini is a Formula 500 race car driver from the West Australia town of Narrogin, according to The Guardian and multiple Australian media reports. His mother Cheryle Nardini said in a Facebook post that the family and Luke are "devastated" that two people died. She and son Jamie visited Luke in jail on Wednesday and he "expressed again how sorry he is about what has happened and the pain he has caused," her post said.
There is more than one area of Highway 84 that has been impacted by lane closures recently, as well as some local debate over a detail in the official account of the accident. Lorrain Rucker, a local resident who drives through the area every day, said the closed lane is on the westbound side of the highway, not the eastbound side, as was reported by the District Attorney's office.
The section of Highway 84 in Woodside damaged by a landslide in March reopened one lane in July, and won’t fully reopen until at least December, Caltrans officials said last week.
Work to repair an upper and lower landslide, in the area between Foxhill and Portola roads, could last into the spring, Caltrans announced Sept. 1 in a newsletter.
The transit agency said crews started repairing pavement along the stretch of the highway between Old La Honda Road and State Route 35 on Aug. 21. The one-way traffic control will be in effect Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., and the roadwork is expected to be completed sometime this month, according to Caltrans.