Members of the tightknit motocross community are expressing their sorrow and sadness over the death of Connor Penhall, a 21-year-old construction worker who was struck by a suspected drunk driver on the 10 freeway Wednesday close to midnight.
Penhall, who was part of a contract crew, was working on a CalTrans project in Baldwin Hills when 37-year-old motorist Takamoto Matsuhiko of Arcadia plowed into him at 60 mph, reports KTLA. Penhall was reportedly tossed 50 to 75 feet and died on impact.
Investigators believed Matsuhiko was under the influence of alcohol, reports the Los Angeles Times, and he was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter, DUI and driving without a license.
Penhall was a rising figure in the motocross world and came from motorcycle racing royalty. His father is Bruce Penhall, the 1981-82 World Speedway Champion and an actor in "CHiPs," an 80s television series about California Highway Patrol motorcycle officers. His brother, Ryan, also races.
Ryan tweeted early Thursday, "You never know what you have until you lose it.. Don't call me." Several hours later, he added, "Thanks everyone for the love and support."
In a 2009 post-race interview at Baja 500, a motocross race in Mexico, Penhall talks about winning third place on a course and poses for a picture with a fan:
Commenters on CycleNews.com expressed their disbelief over the news, calling for prayers for the Penhall family and wishing Connor "Godspeed."
Scot Harden, founder of racing grounds Harden Offroad, commented, "We got to know them very well racing in Baja when my oldest son Brent teamed up with Ryan and Connor. I was always so impressed by what a fine young man Connor was."
A woman who knew the Penhall family during Bruce's racing days commented, "Our prayers go out to the Penhall family. My brother Louis used to race Junior speedway when Connors father raced speedway."
On Race-Dezert.com, a motocross forum, user Coolerking remembered, "I had the pleasure of supporting Connor and the Penhall guys for the 2010 500. I didn't know Connor well, but the few minutes i spent with him (and the few seconds i spent fueling his bike), told me all I needed to know about this fine young man, a top notch kid from a top notch family."
UPDATE: A tipster sent over this video of motocross riders honoring Connor Penhall's life with a parade lap. The film was uploaded to YouTube Thursday and takes place at the Glen Helen raceway in San Bernardino, Calif.
SECOND UPDATE: Suspected drunk driver Takamoto Matsuhiko was charged Friday with gross vehicular manslaughter, DUI causing injury, driving with a .08 percent blood alcohol causing injury and a special allegation of causing great bodily injury.
Takamoto is being held on held on $200,000 bail and faces 10 years in jail if convicted. He's set to appear in court Monday.