Shlomo Bentin, an Israeli cognitive neuroscientist, who died in a bicycle accident on July 13. Photo: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Shlomo Bentin, an Israeli cognitive neuroscientist, who died in a bicycle accident on July 13. Photo: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Israeli professor Shlomo Bentin did not die because he was hit by a dump truck while riding on his bicycle on July 13, according to new details released today by the Berkeley Police Department.

Instead, the dump truck passed so close to Bentin that he may have taken evasive action that inadvertently propelled him over the handlebars of his bike, where he struck his head on the sidewalk, according to police.

Bentin was riding his bicycle westbound on Bancroft Avenue near Fulton around 3:38 p.m., and was riding in the right lane close to a line of parked cars, as the law requires, according to Capt. Andrew Greenwood of the Berkeley Police Department. A dump truck traveling in the same direction passed Bentin but did not strike him, according to an investigation by the Fatal Accident Investigation Team.

But the dump truck may have passed so close to Bentin that he startled and jerked his bike, said Greenwood. Or he may have braked hard. While police could not determine the cause, Bentin flipped over the handlebars of his bike and struck his head and shoulders on the pavement. Police said in July that he was wearing a helmet.

Bentin was taken to a local trauma center where he was later pronounced dead. Police did a forensic analysis on the truck and did not find any fibers, tissue, or fluids that indicated there was a collision, he said.

State law requires that a vehicle passing a bicyclist shall pass to the left at a distance safe enough not to interfere with that bicyclist, said Greenwood.

On Dec. 24, Berkeleyside reported that Berkeley police and the Alameda County district attorney’s office had determined there was not enough evidence to bring criminal charges against the driver of the dump truck. When readers asked for additional information, Berkeleyside went back to the police for more details.

When the accident originally happened, many witnesses reported that the dump truck had struck Bentin, said Greenwood. Police were able to view some security video footage that, while grainy and showing a partially obstructed view, showed the truck passing Bentin and Bentin going down. While the videos were not conclusive, interviews with witnesses and forensic analyses led police to conclude there was no collision, said Greenwood.

After Bentin fell off his bicycle, a motorcyclist at the scene raced ahead and caught up with the dump truck driver, said Greenwood. The driver returned to the scene of the accident and cooperated fully in the investigation. Tests showed the driver was not intoxicated or on drugs, said Greenwood.

Bentin, a globally recognized expert in cognitive neuropsychology who was awarded the Israeli Prize for Psychology in April, was visiting UC Berkeley at the time of his death.

Note: This article has been corrected to show that police did not find the security video conclusive in showing that the dump truck did not strike Bentin, but used it among many tools to determine that.

Professor Shlomo Bentin’s death deemed an accident [12.24.12]
Neuroscientist Shlomo Bentin killed in bike accident [07.16.12]
Cyclist in accident involving a dump truck [07.13.12]

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...