Some blame the biker for kicking the car and provoking the driver; others blame the "cager" behind the wheel for swerving into the biker at freeway speed.
As California Highway Patrol investigators search for a motorcyclist who kicked a sedan and then throttled away as an explosive, chain-reaction collision left two vehicles wrecked and one man injured, a viral video of the episode continues to spark debate over who's to blame for the mayhem.
Now, the man who videotaped the automotive spectacle is speaking out about who appeared to be at fault.
In an interview with The Times on Friday, Chris Traber, 47, of Santa Clarita, said both men appeared to play a role in the harrowing incident.
It was about 5:45 a.m. Wednesday when Traber was in the passenger seat of his coworker's car as they drove to work at a utility company in Burbank. They were headed southbound on the 14 Freeway, and driving in the No. 1 lane, when the man on a Harley Davidson-type motorcycle passed them on the left, riding close to the double-yellow lines that separate the general traffic lanes from the HOV lanes.
About 150 feet ahead was a Nissan sedan driving in the HOV lane, Traber said. Just as the motorcyclist was passing the sedan on the right-hand side, the sedan tried to exit the carpool lane and enter the No. 1 lane. That's when the car bumped the bike.
"I'm sure he didn't see the motorcyclist," Traber said of the driver. "He scared the living daylights out of the motorcyclist. He almost went down. That guy can really handle his bike."
Traber said that after the motorcyclist regained control, he pulled up to the car's passenger door and began gesturing at the driver. Traber said he appeared to be saying something too, but Traber couldn't hear him. He said he figured the biker was "saying something like, hey, you almost hit me! Watch out!"
Traber said it looked as though the driver was yelling something back at the biker, and that it didn't help matters, because that's when the motorcyclist started kicking the passenger door.
"I said, 'Wow, man, something's going to happen. I gotta get this,'" Traber said. "So I grab my phone and started recording."
The motorcyclist then swooped behind the sedan, pulled up along the driver side and kicked the car again, Traber said. In a flash, the driver of the sedan swerved hard left and sideswiped the motorcyclist, almost sending him barreling into a concrete freeway divider, he said.
"As you can see, he lost control after doing that," Traber said of the driver.
The video captured the chaos that ensued. After bumping the motorcyclist, the car swerved right, and then left, and collided with the concrete divider in a shower of sparks and flame. The car then ricocheted off the divider, veered across the freeway and slammed into a Cadillac truck, flipping it over onto its roof.
The motorcyclist, meanwhile, had slowed down and managed to avoid the bumper, glass and debris from the sedan's crash and rode off. Traber said he and his coworker, along with a handful of other drivers, stopped to help.
Bystanders pulled the truck's driver, an elderly man, out of the truck and helped him to the side of the freeway, Traber said. The driver of the sedan was apologizing to the man profusely, he said. The driver of the truck was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries, the CHP said.
The CHP is handling the investigation and did not cite the driver of the sedan. Investigators need to interview the motorcyclist to get the whole story before any decisions are made, officials said. The case is now considered a hit-and-run.
Traber said he does not know how the video ended up online. He said he sent it to his family and a few coworkers, and that it served as a lesson.
"I think the fault was just both parties letting their emotions get the best of them," Traber said. "This is what happens when you lose control."
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