Timothy Starkey’s Death Points to Uptick in Traffic Fatalities

It was nine days ‘til Christmas when Timothy Starkey traveled to his last job.

The 66-year-old Santa Cruz resident had gone to a friend’s house in Los Gatos to hang lights on her Blossom Hill Road home. Friends say it was the kind of deed that he was known for. A retiree from the Silicon Valley bubble, Starkey was living out his second act as a handyman. “He was always wanting to help and do something for others,” Carrie Coffee Ziemer says about her best friend’s father. “No ask was too small.”

But Starkey never got the chance to adorn the Los Gatos home with Christmas lights that day. While he was retrieving something from his car trunk, an SUV traveling down the 900 block of Blossom Hill Road, right by a 25 mph elementary school zone, struck him from behind. Authorities pronounced him dead at the scene.

The driver was later identified as San Jose City Council candidate Jenny Higgins Bradanini, who’s running in the March primary for Councilman Johnny Khamis’ soon-to-be-open District 10-Almaden Valley seat. In a Dec. 19 email to her supporters, she expressed heartbreak over what happened.

“I am heartbroken and deeply saddened by this tragic death,” she wrote. “My heart goes out to the man’s family and loved ones as they are suffering this tragic loss. Words cannot adequately express my sorrow, and I ask for your support in sending your thoughts and condolences to the devastated family.”

In the weeks since the crash, authorities have yet to release details about how it transpired—how the impact affected Starkey’s body, what speed Higgins Bradanini was driving, what caused her to veer out of her lane and whether anything could have been done to prevent the tragedy. There has been no arrest and no charges have been filed.

Meanwhile, Starkey’s family and friends have grappled with the loss of a man they described as generous, humble and larger than life. Coffee Ziemer launched a GoFundMe campaign four days after his death to help cover expenses as the family figures out how to live without its beloved patriarch.

Though the Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police Department has released few details about the crash, Starkey’s death comes as another reminder of how city streets are becoming increasingly fatal for pedestrians. Last year in neighboring San Jose, 60 people died from injuries sustained in traffic collisions, tying a record previously set in 2015. Pedestrians made up 29 of those fatalities—an all-time high for the city.

Dozens of posts on the GoFundMe page for the Starkey family paint the crash victim as a loving father and devoted family man. He had two children—Bridget Starkey, 36, and Joe Starkey, 32—and was married to his wife, Kathleen, for 37 years.

They describe him as the type of dad who befriended his children’s friends, Coffee Ziemer tells San Jose Inside. “Tim’s the kind of dad that wanted Bridget and all her friends to come to Santa Cruz,” she recalls. “His favorite thing in the world was just to have people in his home. … It was kind of the Starkey way.”

Four days after Starkey’s death, Coffee Ziemer started the GoFundMe campaign with the goal of raising $10,000 to “help ease the stress of the financial burden that lies ahead.” As of press time, the effort has raised $22,855 from 148 donors—friends and strangers alike. The campaign goal was upped to $50,000 earlier this week.

“This was such a tragedy, and it really hit the family hard,” Coffee Ziemer says. “There’s no real rule book for what to do next. As the family tries to put things back together, there’s a lot of costs.”

One of those costs includes striking Starkey’s name off the legal title to his car and things like the cell phone bill and other accounts. Funds will also go toward helping the family cover the cost of a rental car while they work to replace the car that was damaged in the crash, as well as insurance and legal fees, Starkey’s memorial and travel for family.

"Our family is beyond devastated by the gravity of this tremendous loss of our beloved Tim,” his survivors wrote in a statement to San Jose Inside. “Our entire community of family and friends has been affected by the gaping hole this leaves in our lives. We appreciate the respect of our privacy during this unimaginably difficult time as we grieve the loss of such a wonderful man."

Tim Lundell, one of the many friends who donated to the online fundraiser, says his late wife worked with Kathleen Starkey more than three decades ago and that he worked as Starkey’s attorney around the time he first met his future wife. He says he fondly remembers his friend’s laugh and they way he liked to play practical jokes on people.

The last time Lundell recalls seeing him was sometime last fall at a celebration of life for Lundell’s late wife. “We were talking about getting together after New Year’s,” Lundell reflects. “It hit him with a big impact when my wife died. He and Kathleen became aware of the value of every day they had together. [He] said he would be particularly sweet, thoughtful and tender to her.”

Traversing the roadways by foot or bike has become riskier than ever in recent years. Since 2009, pedestrian fatalities skyrocketed by 46 percent, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Nikita Sinha, the manager of advocacy group Walk San Jose, says the spike in traffic deaths has coincided with the rise in cell phone use and the proliferation of sturdier SUVs. “It’s safer to be a driver, but that doesn’t mean it’s safer to be a pedestrian,” she says. “There hasn’t really been a behavior or cultural shift that is really necessary to make it safer for people to walk or bike.”

Part of that shift, Sinha says, involves investing in infrastructure, not just for cars but for bicyclists, pedestrians and transit users.

In San Jose, which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ranked as the third most perilous city to bike in the United States, transportation officials at City Hall are working on ways to curb traffic fatalities. Municipalities typically use capital improvement funding to renovate roadways, but that can take years and hundreds of millions of dollars.

Colin Heyne, spokesperson for San Jose’s Department of Transportation, says the city is instead looking at quick-build projects that employ strategies like painted bikeways and the bright-green posts that cropped up as bike lane barriers in and around downtown.

San Jose officials expect to go in front of the city’s Transportation and Environment Committee on Feb. 3 with the latest iteration of its Vision Zero Action Plan, which sets out strategies to eliminate traffic deaths.

Grace Hase is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @grace_hase.

21 Comments

  1. > Though the Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police Department has released few details about the crash, Starkey’s death comes as another reminder of how city streets are becoming increasingly fatal for pedestrians.

    What’s taking so long?

    This is an outrageous common practice by local governments and local authorities.

    The public is entitled to know the facts for the simple reason it is the only way the public can judge the competency and integrity of local governments and local authorities.

  2. An open letter to Jenni.

    Please drop out of the race now. Send pro rated refunds to all your supporters with a note telling them to donate the returned moneyto the deceased. Not saying this to be mean, a jerk or otherwise, but if your campaign advisors are telling you that you can win at this point, then the notch on the belt of winning has overshadowed doing what is right.

    Best of luck to you in life, but this unfortunate series of events prevents you from becoming a council member. Do what you can.

    • Nothing in this article proves who was at fault. Unless you’re close to the investigation, your comment makes no sense at all.

      • On the contrary, this is a matter of doing the right thing. She took a life because she wasn’t paying attention. Now it’s just a matter of what she was doing. Was she texting? Was she on her cell phone and distracted? Was she speeding? Is she a smoker and dropped her cigarette? Was she eating? I’ve driven that road many times and the speed jumps from one speed to 25 then back up, not to mention many people don’t care what the speed is and you have to pay attention to those people. In any case I won’t vote for her and it will be because of this.

      • My comment makes perfect sense. The family has a go fund me because they can’t afford funeral costs. I think the man deserves a decent burial more than Jenni deserves to be on the council.

        It’s unconscionable to say otherwise.

      • “Nothing in this article proves who was at fault.”

        It proves who was NOT at fault. The deceased.

        As far as who was at fault, this excerpt offers a good clue:

        “While he was retrieving something from his car trunk, an SUV traveling down the 900 block of Blossom Hill Road, right by a 25 mph elementary school zone, struck him from behind. ”

        An aerial photo available at nbcbayarea.com shows that the driver had to cross the bike lane in order to rear end the parked van.

        Unfortunately for Mr.Starkey, his body was between his parked van and Ms. Braganini’s Range Rover.

        What would make the death NOT the driver’s fault?
        1. Driver had an unexpected stroke or seizure.
        2. A vehicle costing a minimum of $50K had a sudden mechanical failure.
        3. ???

  3. As the city has narrowed traffic lanes and invited more and more bicyclists to share the road via their “road diets”, fatalities have risen. Wow, who could have seen that coming? Gee, everyone?
    Get bicycles off the streets they are dangerous for everyone and give the cars room to operate.

    • I would also like to know what the heck is going on with investigation. Was she charged and if so with what?! Rishi, a Saratoga councilman, was the cause of a three car accident, he slammed into cars from behind and then he fled the scene, the sheriff had to go seek him out to bring them back to the scene, and he was only charged with a misdemeanor. front car with over $10,000 for the damages. What the hell is going on. This girl basically murdered this man. WHATS THE HOLD UP.

    • This has more to do with driver entitlement attitude lately: blowing past speed limits, speeding toward yellow lights and then blowing past red lights, tailgating, distracted driving, driving while medicated, centipede driving trains…etc. 36,000+ fatalities a year. At least driving is not Constitutionally protected which will make the automated driving transition a lot quicker.

      • Make it harder to get a Driver’s License. Make the fines tougher and actually enforce the laws. Stop allowing illegal aliens to have licenses. All these things will put more people on public transit, decreases congestion, and may even be good for the environment.

  4. Even a machine learned driverless car that has no heart would not blame the victim for the crash even if they were jay walking, wearing dark clothing, homeless, under the influence, walking too slowly in a cross walk, cycling, etc, etc. No it would instead try to ‘learn’ how to find a safer and more efficient way to brake such as the Left Foot Braking Method and bar the teaching of the ‘Killer’ right foot braking method. It is unfortunate that neither NHTSA nor GHSA seem to want to peruse that course of action. Tradition and Testosterone can be a terrible thing. Note: Simply using your left foot to brake is not, repeat not the Left Foot Braking Method.

  5. This is indeed a ver sad situation. This family needs a good attorney. One of those that does not charge you a dime unless you win. They also need an out of area attorney because of driver’s connections. This is an outstanding law firm I recommend: Makkabi Law Group: 9454 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 900 Beverly Hills, CA 90212 T: 855-887-8700 F: 310-887-8001 [email protected] http://www.makkabilaw.com The family will have to go in person to the Los Gatos Police Department or San Jose when it happens in San Jose. In the past the law firm had try to obtain police reports from San Jose Police Department vía online. The online process takes months just to obtain the report. Going in person and sending it to the attorney is the fastest way. They have no connection to local politicians or related people. People be late for your appointments or just cancel. Local departments must focus daily efforts on speeders, distracted drivers, DUIs. Lots of people ignore red lights in a daily basis.

  6. What is going on with this case? Are investigators/police waiting for cell phone records?

    The deceased man was not jaywalking or riding a bike. He was getting something out of the back of his vehicle. Bradanini was in a 25 mph school zone and hit the man from behind.

    According to witnesses, (paraphrasing) the man was cut in half by the impact.

    Why is there no follow-up anywhere about this case? Is it because she is vying for a political seat on the SJ City Council?

    Why isn’t Bradanini coming out to declare her positions? Is she hoping voters won’t know about the legalities and lawsuits that are sure to follow her and just vote for her?

    The family, friends, and voters need answers.

  7. My Opinion,

    Are you equating riding a bicycle with jaywalking (an illegal or dangerous form of walking)?

    I don’t think there is really anything amiss at this point about no charges being brought. These things take some time.

  8. Does this mean she’s been appointed to a seat? Link at the bottom. You have to search the Document for her name, down towards the bottom half.

    If Jenny or any of her advisers are reading this, Please drop out. You have no right to go on your path in life if you killed a man cause of your negligence. I say that because I read that he was pulled over on the side of the road. If you were on your phone you definitely deserve jail time and you need to fall on that sword. and I speak for myself, every time I see your face I think about that poor man and his family. I don’t care about your civic actions. There is a growing wave of people doing amazing things for their communities and that tide will continue to grow without you. Your jail time would be brief anyway, you can jump right back in when you get out. Lucky you.

    Her political career does not matter. If she was in the wrong, she needs to face the penalty like everybody else. Plus she can work from jail.

    https://www.sccgov.org/sites/cob/bnc/CABODocs/MaddyReport.pdf

    also, if anybody wishes to email the Los Gatos Police Department and voice their concerns that she will get away with murder, which sounds dramatic saying it out loud but that is my concern, please feel free to email them [email protected]

    • *plus if one is so worried she won’t be able to carry on her work, don’t worry, she can work from jail. Where there’s a will there’s a way.
      ^^ That’s what i mean by saying she can work from jail.

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