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San Diego Athlete Killed In Car Accident On Cycle Path

Nicholas John Venuto, 40, was killed Tuesday night while riding his bicycle in Rancho Penasquitos.

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In a sad series of events, San Diego athlete, father, and husband struck and killed by a vehicle that spun out of control. Another cyclist and triathlete was put into intensive care as a result of the incident.

SR-56 bike victim was biotech executive

By Susan Shroderv from

Originally published 5:21 p.m., June 1, 2011, updated 9:44 a.m., June 1, 2011

A bicyclist who was killed Tuesday night when an out-of-control sport-utility vehicle careened into a bike path off state Route 56 in Rancho Peñasquitos was identified Wednesday by family and friends as Nick Venuto, 40, a bioenergy company executive and married father of two from Poway.

Another bicyclist who was struck in the accident was identified Wednesday by the California Highway Patrol as Baron Herdelin-Doherty, 51, of Solana Beach. He was named CEO and president of YMCA of San Diego County in October.

Herdelin-Doherty was in critical condition Wednesday at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The driver of the 2003 Ford Escape SUV, identified by the CHP as Sheena Saranita, 27, of San Diego, was in good condition at the hospital, the spokeswoman said. She suffered minor injuries, the CHP said.

Herdelin-Doherty is married and the father of a college-age son, said YMCA spokeswoman Kristie Spalding. He is a triathlete and avid bicyclist who cycles five to seven times a week, Spalding said.The accident happened about 6:20 p.m. Tuesday off eastbound SR-56 just past the Camino del Sur exit, west of Black Mountain Road.

Saranita was driving eastbound at an estimated 65 to 80 mph when she began to change lanes. She saw a vehicle in the far-right lane, overreacted and steered the SUV hard to the right, the CHP said. The SUV traveled up a 15-foot grassy embankment, plowed through a chain-link fence and overturned on the elevated bike path.

As the SUV overturned, it struck Venuto and Herdelin-Doherty. Venuto was pronounced dead at the scene by San Diego Fire-Rescue Department paramedics.

Neither drugs nor alcohol were believed to be factors in the accident, CHP Officer Art Athans said Wednesday.

Herdelin-Doherty suffered broken hips, ribs and arms, Athans said. He and Venuto did not know each other, Athans said. Both were wearing helmets.

Venuto was an avid bicyclist who rode with the San Diego Descenders bicycle club, said Jim Knight, a friend. Venuto is survived by his wife, Deb, a 12-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter.

Venuto was the corporate controller at Sapphire Energy, a bioenergy company in Torrey Pines. He was commuting home from work on his bicycle, friends said.

In a statement Wednesday night, the company said, “Nick Venuto was a highly valued employee as controller for Sapphire Energy. We all are deeply saddened by this sudden and tragic loss. Nick not only excelled in his contributions to help Sapphire grow, but he had an incredible passion and zest for life and was a loving father and husband. He already is greatly missed and our thoughts are with his family at this time.”

Spalding said that Herdelin-Doherty has made a “gigantic impact” on the YMCA since becoming CEO. “We are incredibly saddened by this,” she said.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to all involved in the accident and their families,” she said.

Dr. Dave Chotiner, a dentist from Carmel Valley, witnessed the accident and was the first to render aid. He said Venuto, who appeared to have been hit first, died within minutes. Herdelin-Doherty was lying on his back about 40 feet behind Venuto.

He said Saranita was out of her SUV near Venuto and was yelling hysterically, “you have to help him.”

Tony DiLorenzo, a close friend of Venuto’s, said the two men cycled together for “thousands of miles” in the last several years.

“We were just two husbands hanging out, doing something we loved,” DiLorenzo said Wednesday. “We talked about family and friends; what we wanted to accomplish in life.”

Staff writer Kristina Davis contributed to this report.