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What the police report shows on the tragic crash in Back Bay that left bicyclist dead

Alan Wright (left), of RozzieBikes and Richard Fries, executive director of MassBike, watched a video showing Dr. Anita Kurmann and a tractor-trailer moments before her death during a press conference at the MassBike offices in Boston on Jan. 23.Craig F. Walker/Globe staff
Boston police say they are confident they reached the lawful conclusion when the department declined to file charges against New Jersey truck driver Matthew Levari for the death of Dr. Anita Kurmann, who was on her bicycle when she was killed by the rear tires of Levari’s tractor trailer on Aug. 7, 2015.

Here are some details about the police investigation gleaned from the 28-page final report.

1. Solar glare and weather conditions were not a factor.

Police tapped into National Weather Service data as part of their investigation. The crash took place around 7:05 a.m. on a sunny day, but police concluded solar glare was not a factor because the sun was 12 degrees above the horizon and at an azimuth of 79 degrees.

“This places the sun and its rays to the left of the Mack truck as it was travelling on Massachusetts Avenue,” police wrote.

Temperature was 64.9 degrees Fahrenheit and there was no recent precipitation, meaning roadways where the crash took place were dry.


2. Road conditions were not a factor.

Mass. Ave is 3o feet, 3 inches wide and has a downward slope of 1.7 percent on the inbound direction. A police inspection concluded the intersection “appeared to be well maintained and was found to be clean and free from any contributory surface defects at the time of the crash.”

3. Trailer cleared safety inspections.

Levari contacted Boston police around 5 p.m. Aug. 7 and identified himself as the driver of the tractor trailer involved in the fatal crash.

Levari reported the trailer was in New Jersey while he and the Mack truck he was driving at the time was in Pennsylvania. With the help of law enforcement in both states, the truck and the trailer were both impounded and Boston police obtained search warrants to conduct forensic and safety inspections on the vehicles.

The only forensic finding from the trailer was the discovery of human blood found on the second axle on the outer tire of the trailer, a 2015 Eagle Transcraft II.

The trailer had a valid inspection sticker from August 2015 and cleared a new standard safety inspection by Boston police on Aug. 13. Police noted it exceeded safety rules in one area that was of investigative importance: Amber signal lights were installed on three spots on both sides of the trailer. Extra amber lights were on the rear of the trailer, police found.


“During the inspection, the Reconstructionist observed that additional signal lights, more than required, had been installed on the trailer,” police wrote. “When activated the signals worked properly as running lights, turn signals, and hazard lights.”

4. The truck cleared safety inspections, but police found a blind spot on the passenger side of the truck.

Boston police examined the 2016 Mack CXU613 truck in Pennsylvania on Aug. 14, 2016. “The Mack truck was inspected and no evidence of any mechanical failures or contributory defects was found.” police wrote. “There were no applicable recalls for the Mack truck.”

Police then studied the driver’s field of vision on the passenger side — about where Kurmann was riding before she was struck — by placing six yellow cones at measured intervals. And when police were sitting in the driver’s seat and looking through one of two passenger-side mirrors, only three of the cones — the most distant — were visible.

5. The parallel journeys taken by Kurmann and Laveri.

Both Kurmann and the truck were on the Mass. Avenue bridge from Cambridge into Boston, with Kurman riding her Trek Soho bicycle in the dedicated bike lane while the truck traveled in the lane nearest her, the right vehicle travel lane.

At the end of the bridge, the dedicated bike lane ends and bicyclists are supposed to shift to their left and share a lane with vehicular traffic, according to police. Where the bike lane ends, a bus lane begins and signs are posted on poles notifying drivers no parking is allowed in the bus lane, police wrote.


“A posted sign at the end of the bridge indicates “Share the Road” (italics in original) but, as the lane ends there is roadway markings in the middle lane indicating that is a shared bike lane,’’ police wrote. “This would mean that all bicycle traffic coming from the bridge should move to the middle lane to cross over Beacon Street.”

6. Surveillance video

(Note: We have edited the video below, which was provided by MassBike.)

Bicycle group says driver was responsible in fatal Back Bay bike crash in 2015
Bicycle group says driver was responsible in fatal Back Bay bike crash in 2015

Police pulled the video from a Boston Transportation Department camera positioned near the intersection of Mass. Avenue and Beacon Street. Police said the video showed the entire incident from the time both Kurmann and the truck reached the end of the Mass. Ave bridge until, a few moments later, when the rear wheels of the trailer crushed Kurmann.

As both Kurmann and the truck come near the intersection, Kurmann appears to be directly opposite the passenger side door of the truck as Levari turns the truck to the left so he can swing the entire tractor trailer onto Beacon Street. At the time, the amber lights on the truck and on the trailer are all flashing for 8 seconds, signaling a right-hand turn, while Kurmann is pedaling in parallel with the truck.

Levari turns the truck to the right and passes directly in front of Kurmann, who comes to a sudden, full stop and is standing on her feet. As Levari continues his rightward turn, Kurmann can be seen taking two or more steps backward and looks to her left as the trailer starts moving past her. Suddenly, only the rear wheel of her bicycle is visible as the vehicle strikes Kurmann.


7. Conclusions:

■  Amber lights: “The Mack truck, as seen by video footage had its right turn signal activated. From the time that the Reconstructionist can see the signal light flashing ...till the time the Mack truck reaches the beginning of the crosswalk . . . 8 seconds have elapsed indicating the trucks intention to make a right hand turn onto Beacon Street.”

■  Traffic rules: “As Ms. [Kurmann] approached Beacon Street, from the right rear of the truck, she remained in the lane closest to the curb which is designated as a bus stop rather than shifting into the middle shared bike lane.”

 Blind spot: “During the movements of the truck and trailer the operator must be cognizant of his surroundings in order to safely turn...Ms [Kurmann] never passes the Mack truck prior to the crash and for some period is outside the visual range of the truck operator as provided by his side view mirrors. The video analysis along with the photographs taken from inside the cab of the tractor show the limited field of view.”

■  Ultimate finding: “It is the collective view of the Boston Police Department Fatal Collision Investigation Team that during the reconstruction phase of the investigation, the primary cause of this crash is the action of the victim, Ms. [Kurmann] when she failed to recognize the turning truck and was outside of the truck driver’s field of view. The truck has signaled his intention to turn for eight (8) seconds prior as she approached from the right rear. The roadway markings indicate that the bicycle lane shifts left and the lane closest to the curb was posted as a bus stop.”


John R. Ellement can be reached Follow him on Twitter@JREbosglobe.