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New NTSB report questions driver’s story that steering locked up when he crashed into cyclists in Arizona

A newly released report on a fatal crash involving a pickup truck and a group of cyclists last year near Phoenix casts doubt about the driver’s claim that the vehicle’s steering locked up.

The National Transportation Safety Board released a report on Wednesday about the Feb. 25, 2023, crash on a Goodyear bridge. Two bicyclists died and 17 others were injured.

According to the report, the truck’s steering worked fine when the NTSB watched a technician drive the vehicle, and the Arizona Department of Public Safety also found nothing wrong with the steering.

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The truck driver — identified as Pedro Quintana-Lujan — initially was arrested on suspicion of two counts of manslaughter, three counts of aggravated assault, 18 counts of endangerment and two counts of causing serious injury or death by a moving violation.

He later was released from jail after Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell asked Goodyear police to investigate further, AZFamily.com reported. Police then said the incident appeared to be an accident, and Mitchell’s office said it wouldn’t pursue felony charges, the Phoenix television news station reported.

It was unclear Wednesday whether the Goodyear City Prosecutor’s Office would pursue any charges against Quintana-Lujan in light of the NTSB report.

Email messages sent to Goodyear authorities weren’t immediately returned and neither was a request for comment sent to an email address believed to belong to Quintana-Lujan.

A spokesperson for the Maricopa County Attorney’s office said it had nothing to add to the NTSB report and emphasized that Mitchell earlier noted that two independent evaluations of the vehicle had found no issues.

Quintana-Lujan originally told police that he was headed to work with materials he picked up for a job and his truck was hauling a trailer when it crashed into the group of 20 bicyclists on the Cotton Lane Bridge in Goodyear, located about 19 miles west of Phoenix.

Quintana-Lujan said he was driving in the left of two northbound lanes when his steering locked and he drifted into the vacant right lane, then into the adjacent bike lane where he heard “a sound similar to metal.”

Police said reconstruction of the collision determined that when the driver entered the bike lane, he also struck the concrete barrier that separates the roadway from a sidewalk — leaving black tire marks halfway up the wall and striking several cyclists.

The crash shook the area’s avid cyclists, who encourage other riders to travel in large groups for improved protection. Survivors joined in a commemorative ride in Goodyear last Sunday.

“I think it will not be a start, but it will bring an end and bring an emotional closure,” Clay Wells, who cycled with the group for the first time since he was injured in the crash, told AZFamily.com. “It’s been a long time coming.”

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