Driver Charged in Hit-And-Run Crash that Killed Cyclist on Newport Coast Drive

posted: September 19th, 2012 11:25 am | 3Comments


The driver accused of killing a bicyclist Saturday morning on Newport Coast Drive has been charged with one felony count of hit and run causing death and one misdemeanor count of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence, according to a press release issued today by the Orange County District Attorney’s office.

Michael Jason Lopez, 39, Anaheim was arrested early Tuesday morning in Anaheim. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of eight years in prison, the release said. A sentencing enhancement for a prior strike conviction for a residential burglary in 1993 applies, the release said.

His arraignment is scheduled for 3 p.m. today in Santa Ana, and prosecutors will be asking that Lopez be held on $100,000 bail, the release said. The arraignment later was continued, according to published reports.

The fatal crash occurred about 9:45 a.m. Saturday, when Catherine Campion-Ritz, 57, of Irvine, was riding her bicycle with her husband along Newport Coast Drive.

“Lopez is accused of driving his vehicle on the same road and crashing into the back of the victim, throwing her from her bike to the street,” the release said. “Instead of stopping to assist the victim or calling 911, Lopez is accused of failing to remain at the scene or render any aid and fled the scene. The defendant is accused of sustaining damage to his Toyota pick-up truck consistent with colliding with a person riding a bicycle.”

Ritz died at 1:40 p.m. at Mission Hospital.

Her death was the second cyclist fatality in Newport Beach in two days. On Friday morning, Sarah Leaf, 29, was killed after a truck ran over her as she cycled at East Coast Highway and Bayside Drive. Police continue to investigate both crashes.

3 Responses to “Driver Charged in Hit-And-Run Crash that Killed Cyclist on Newport Coast Drive”



September 19th, 2012

8 years? He took someone's life and sped off like a coward. He didn't even show remorse or second thought by turning himself in- he had to be found by law enforcement. Our justice system is a disgrace.

Scott H.

September 19th, 2012

Ridiculous. He'll get 2 yrs., maybe. Once again, the law fails. How is it that someone in a car can yell out at a cyclist, "I'm going to kill you!" and that's a felony, yet running a cyclist down with your car is a "misdemeanor count of vehicular manslaughter"??? A sad loss of life with little repercussions...

amanda walter

September 19th, 2012

sending much love and positive thoughts to Catherine's family and friends. cyber hug.

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