‘Textbook freak accident’ that killed Port Angeles motorcyclist investigated

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT ANGELES — LaDona Wilson was preparing to go to work the night she found out her 25-year-old son was dead.

“We knew that Chaz was due home, and he was late,” Wilson said Friday.

Clallam County Sheriff’s Deputy Laticia Wells arrived at Wilson’s home on Black Diamond Road on Thursday night to tell her that her son, Chaz Sands, had just died in a motorcycle wreck not far from Wilson’s home.

“It just happened about a half-mile from our house, actually,” said Wilson, a charge nurse at Port Angeles’ Olympic Medical Center emergency room, where she generally works at night.

Authorities say they don’t know why the wreck happened.

“Textbook freak accident,” said Deputy Josh Ley, the lead investigator of the wreck, “just merely left the roadway for no apparent cause or reason.”

Passing motorists found Sands next to the 2008 Buell 1125R motorcycle he had been riding at 6:49 p.m. that night in a roadside ditch along the 2200 block of Black Diamond Road, Sgt. Randy Pieper said.

Deputies Shaun Minks and Wells, along with medic personnel, came to the scene and found Sands unresponsive, Pieper said.

Attempts to revive him were unsuccessful. He was pronounced dead at the scene of the wreck.

Ley said Saturday there is no clear evidence of the reason Sands’ motorcycle left the road.

“Outside of mere speculation, there’s no indication as to why,” Ley said.

There was no ice, or even road salt, on the road surface, Ley said, and there were no tire friction marks indicating hard braking or acceleration.

There was no evidence that Sands hit anything other than the embankment on the opposite side of the road as he drove south, Ley said, adding that he was wearing full protective gear.

The bike itself, borrowed from a friend, was still rideable after the wreck.

Wilson said motorcycles were a beloved hobby for her son, who was saving money to buy one from his uncle.

“He has gone on long motorcycle trips all over Washington and Oregon,” Wilson said.

Autopsy results show Sands died from a tear in his aorta after he hit the embankment, Ley said.

The results did not indicate any other medical condition, such as heart attack or stroke, that might have led to the wreck, and neither drugs nor alcohol is thought to be a factor, Ley said.

Ley said he plans to speak with co-workers and the motorcycle’s owner to gain an understanding of how Sands was acting the day he died.

“I’d like to go an extra quarter-mile just to see what others have to say,” Ley said.

“All that would lead to is additional speculation, but we may never know why.”

Wilson said deputies told her they believe Sands might have swerved to miss something along Black Diamond Road as he headed back home from his new job at Airport Garden Center on Edgewood Drive in Port Angeles.

“There are a lot of raccoons in that area. We believe he probably swerved to miss a raccoon,” Wilson said.

Ley said there is no way to know.

“We have no support; it’s just speculation,” Ley said.

A 2006 Port Angeles High School graduate with dreams of becoming a chef, Sands will be remembered by his many friends and his family as a compassionate man, always quick with a smile and a hug, Wilson said.

“He was such a bright light,” Wilson said.

“Everyone that knows him absolutely loves him. He is just one of those people.

“He would just give you a hug and make you feel better.”

When Sands was 16, Wilson said he spent a month in Morelia, Mexico, helping refurbish schools through a YMCA program.

Sands had recently moved home after living in Seattle, where he worked at an Italian food stand at Pike Place Market and went to culinary school at the Art Institute of Seattle.

Wilson said Sands handed out sandwiches left over from the day’s business to homeless people he would see downtown.

“Even the homeless people absolutely loved him,” she said.

Sands had recently come back to Port Angeles and was staying with Wilson and his father, Matthew, at their Black Diamond Road home to save money for school, Wilson said.

He was just about to move into a place in Port Angeles with a high school friend, Wilson added.

After high school, Sands earned a computer science degree from Peninsula College and worked in Edmonds and then Eugene, Ore., Wilson said, but always wanted to return to the Seattle area.

“He always loved the city, loved the activity and the night life over there,” Wilson said.

Sands also is survived by a sister, Marissa, 19; a grandmother, Roseann; and other family members.

A memorial service for Sands is in the works, with Feb. 1 as a tentative date, but a site has not been determined.

Wilson said a church would be needed to fit all the friends and family likely to attend the services, which she intends to be open to the public.

“We want to celebrate his life,” Wilson said.


Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: January 25. 2014 8:38PM
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