Man killed by truck while dribbling soccer ball to Brazil

Richard Swanson, 42, set off from Seattle on May 1 hoping to dribble a soccer ball all the way to Brazil. A truck hit him in Lincoln City, Oregon, less than two weeks into his trip. [BBC]


  1. It’s always the truck or the car doing the killing. Never the driver. 

    And it’s always a tragic accident, and never incompetence or negligence on the part of the most powerful and dangerous road user. 

    If you want to kill someone in America, make sure they’re a pedestrian and make sure you hit them with your vehicle.

    1.  The trick is not to back up or come back for a second run. That’s when things get iffy.

  2. @jsd: not necessarily what you say. Some pedestrians are really stupid. Dribbling a ball on the road doesn’t help Swanson’s case.

    1. jsd is pointing out the way that media focuses on the object that was used in someone’s death, rather than the human being who wielded it and was the one actually responsible for the death.

      1.  If that was jsd’s point, I missed it, sorry.

        Now, talking about media focusing on the object, not on the person’s death: I really don’t want to sound cynical, but people die every day, that is not news, but what makes the news is the object used. Sounds awful, but I think that’s why.

        1. hundreds of people die everyday in auto related incidents. 

          This particular incident was noteworthy more because of the unusual undertaking of the victim than the cause of death

          Also I don’t think that the media focussing on the object is jsd’s point, but rather the disassociation it causes.

      2.  Since the driver wasn’t charged, current odds are the human being responsible for the death was the guy dribbling the ball.

          1. Do you think being struck from behind makes the driver more negligent? I would think that detail actually lessens the driver’s culpability.

          2.  I didn’t say it makes him “more negligent”, just relaying what little facts there are.  Oregon news says he was on the shoulder which sounds like negligence to me.

          3. If he was struck from behind (assuming the driver didn’t cross over oncoming traffic to hit him) then he was on the wrong side of the road to begin with.

          4. kuangmk11 – The photo on the news item has him traveling in the correct manner. So all the photo evidence we have shows he knows that rule.

            If so, “struck from behind” is perhaps a result of seeing too late an oncoming vehicle leave the roadway on a collision course to jump aside/away successfully, but making the attempt becausewhatelsewouldyoudo, and not “struck from behind at unawares”

            Or he could have for any reason at all been on the other side of the road, on the shoulder.

            Or he could have been looking in the opposite direction of his traveling direction.

          5. Whether or not he was facing the wrong way on the highway, that does not obviate the motorist’s responsibility to stay in his lane and not kill someone on the shoulder of the road.

            If you want the Oregon state patrol to write a ticket post-mortem, insisting that the victim’s estate pay it, fine. But don’t mistake that for justification of the motorist’s actions.

          6. Drivers are rarely held accountable for their negligence in such deaths, even if they are at fault. It was an “accident” as opposed to the driver deliberately running down the victim.

            We can and should hold negligent drivers accountable for their actions, but “negligence” is not the same thing as “deliberately running down the victim.”

            I’m not a big fan of guns but I can recognize the distinction between someone who kills another person in a hunting accident and someone who commits an act of premeditated murder.

          7. In the US, traffic ‘accidents’ are usually treated as accidents. The UK goes rather too far in the other direction and seems to require a public sacrifice.

          8. Agreed, but if we were seeing tens of thousands of hunting accidents every year in the US, we would probably consider at least raising the penalty to encourage hunters to be more careful.

        1.  Since the driver wasn’t charged, current odds are the human being responsible for the death was the guy dribbling the ball.

          Police officers overwhelmingly side with motor vehicle drivers over pedestrians or cyclists. It’s been shown time and again.

          Not driving a car is weird, and probably communist, so police are more likely to assume the victim is at fault.

    1. I think a sufficient edit would be to change “A truck hit him…” to “A truck driver hit him…”. By removing the driver from the report it makes it seem as though the collision (not “accident”) was an act of nature and unavoidable.

      1. A news outlet isn’t the justice system however, and showing some restraint in placing blame is actually a good thing. Let the police point the finger, reporters should only document the event. 

        1. No, I still believe that there is an inherent (usually subconscious) editorial bias in mentioning the vehicle but not the driver in crash reports. Doing so does not place blame, it only removes the anonymity of the incident and addresses the real, human element of the situation. We don’t say “Bicycle hits pedestrian”, for instance, or “Gun shoots man”.

      2. “A truck driver hit him” makes it sound like he was fighting a Teamster.

        Simple fact is, a truck did hit him.  Driven by someone, yes, but a truck all the same. 

          1. No, it’s like saying “Terrorists hijack airplanes, strike World Trade Center.” Both the vehicle and the operator are equally significant in relating the nature of the incident.

          2. @Prinzrob:disqus : Sure, if you’ve got enough space for a long headline. “Truck driven by truck driver strikes and kills man” is perfectly accurate but hardly concise.  The role of the driver may be inferred by the fact that someone was struck by a moving truck.

          3. @Navin_Johnson:disqus : “Attacked” or “murdered” implies intent. In the first confused minutes of the 9/11 attacks “World Trade Center Struck by Plane” was the responsible and accurate way to describe what had just happened.

            Similarly, “struck by truck” is neutral but accurate way of describing what caused this man’s death until we have more details about the incident. It could be that the driver of the truck was negligent, or completely innocent of wrongdoing, or even a homicidal maniac who ran him down on purpose.

          4. Using an extremely unfathomable event isn’t really fair. People are killed by drivers every day. It may be pedantic, but I agree with the OP that it trivializes and sterilizes what happened. In a society that favors automobile travel so much that it endangers its citizens every time they go out for a walk I think it’s important to remind readers that choices are made that lead up to accidents. if he was indeed struck while not on the road then that leads us to believe that the truck was not being driven safely.

            “Killed by truck” implies that it’s just matter of course and that the driver wasn’t even a factor, or even worse that it was the pedestrian’s fault.

            Having said that, there’s painfully little info in the stories about this. I think we are all wondering why the driver was driving on the shoulder right?

          5. @Brainspore My last job was writing headlines for a popular transportation blog, so I know all about space issues. We referred to drivers, kept the headlines factual without bias, and nobody was confused.

          6.  “Man killed by water after other man knocked him unconscious and threw him overboard…..”

          7. @Navin_Johnson:disqus : Good example.  Replace “killed by water” with “drowned” and you’ve got a descriptive, if longish, headline.

      3. Yeah but the truck driver didn’t hit him… the truck did…

        The driver caused the truck to hit him, so is what you want the headline to be “A truck, driven by a person, hit him…”

        Isnt it kind of safe to presume unless other wise stated that the truck is in fact driven by a person.

    2. I guess you are replying to the post by jsd, but ask yourself if the man was killed by the truck.

      There may be no perfect way to express it but there could be a better way. 

      We say that people are killed or murdered -with- objects unless the object in question did purposely or negligently cause the death. So how often is that?

      Is the truck in question a sentient alien from outer space that handily resembles an earthbound manmade vehicle when in a certain form, and did either have malice toward the pedestrian or accidentally strike him?

      …probably not.

      1. Ask yourself, if someone isn’t paying attention and steps off the curb in front of a car when it’s too late for the driver to do anything, can you honestly say that the driver was responsible for that person’s death?

        … probably not.  So why burden an innocent person (and risk a libel lawsuit that might bankrupt you) by naming the driver as the killer before the facts are known?

        1. So funny that this logic implies that the car had nobody driving it.

          The man was killed by the driver, that’s not the same as saying he was murdered by him or that it wasn’t an accident.

        2. Because referring to the driver in an incident of -collision- in no way libels or disassociates the individual operating the vehicle. 

          Reporting is possible and such would better deter people from being either party by promoting greater vigilance all round.

          Also the circumstances you refer to are exceedingly rare if all vigilance based road practices are utilized. 

          Do you pass people on the highway, at speed, when their becoming suddenly prone would put them in harm’s way, by you? 

          Or do you slow down and edge toward or even over the centre line while observing both conditions and possible dangers? Can you guess which you should do?

          As for this  instance, he was according to accounts in media on the shoulder, not in the traveling lane, when struck from behind. You see, that statement also did not libel or prejudge and if it is not the case then a court can determine that.

  3. Lincoln City is usually our town of choice for a summer vacation, flying over from Colorado.  It is full of tourists the year round and pedestrians are everywhere.  It is not a town well set up for a lot of safe pedestrian traffic, and the tourists are inclined not to bother with formalities like crosswalks, in keeping with the town’s laid back vacation-friendly nature.  I’m not blaming the victim here; I’m just not surprised (saddened, maybe) to read it happened in Lincoln City.  Maybe the scrutiny by the press will move the city council to consider appropriating more money for pedestrian infastructure.

    We chose Brookings this year (although we prefer the small town of Bandon).

  4. I’d really like to know how he planned to “dribble” through the Darien Gap, I guess we’ll never know now.

      1. Arthur Blessitt did it in the 70’s the Darien Gap is an entirely different place now being overrun with drug smugglers who shoot people on site.

  5. I don’t know, not to besmirch the guy.  He seems like a nice guy who just had hard times and wanted to do something fun and rewarding.  But dribbling a soccer ball on narrow roadways across two continents?  That doesn’t seem like a wise choice.  Your attention would be on the ball, when the imminent danger is all the vehicles around, and on winding roads, those are the things you oughta be concentrating on, not a soccer ball.  Just didn’t seem like a wise choice, to me.

    1. That was pretty much my sentiment as well. I’ve been to Lincoln City a few times and know what the highway looks like going through it. It’s a road I certainly wouldn’t want to travel on-foot!

      1. The Oregon Coast on 101 is a major bike touring route complete with marked signs etc. It can definitely be a white knuckle drive in some of the more breathtaking areas (not where he was in this accident at all) but that’s even more reason to drive more carefully. There’s also a lot more shoulder than in your link. He was near the Southern limits of the city the stories say and there’s plenty of shoulder, and the 101 is like a “Main St.” through Lincoln City. Would be curious to see how fast the driver was driving.

        1. I wasn’t really speaking to the specific accident that Swanson was in–just that I wouldn’t want to be traveling on 101 in anything other than a motor vehicle. Sure, there are spots where I’d feel safe, but as you suggest regarding “white knuckle driving,” there are also plenty of places where the cars & trucks would have to be nearly brushing your elbow.

    2. What surprises me is that he did not take anyone with him to watch out for and slow down traffic if necessary. I am sure he could have found someone to accompany him. Also, did he not meet any resistance from family and friends as the dangers seem rather obvious?

    1. I need a soccer ball. Anyone have opinions on the best choice?

      Taking into account performance, durability, and maintenance? This ball seems like a good choice from the latter two perspectives. I also like the charity factor.

      But will this ball be scorned by the more seasoned recreational players in my league?

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