The safety vest and helmet John Chambers wore on his daily rides along Kapowsin Highway East weren’t enough to save him Wednesday.
Chambers, 74, was killed after he was hit by a dump truck just before noon. The driver stopped after the accident and cooperated with investigators, Pierce County sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said.
Neighbors in the area were saddened by Chambers’ death but not completely surprised.
“We knew it was going to happen sooner or later,” said Sandy Martinez, the owner of the Handi Stop Grocery and Gas at Meridian Avenue East and Kapowsin Highway. “He was always in the middle of the road.”
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Martinez said Chambers made daily visits to her store. Just before the accident he had cashed an $8 check.
“He had a hard time talking,” Martinez said. “You couldn’t really talk to him.”
Customers would vent to Martinez constantly about Chambers, she said. Drivers would swerve to avoid hitting him.
Chambers lived at the Country Cottage Guest Home, an assisted living facility on the Kapowsin Highway.
“We called the Cottage a couple of times that John is going to get hit,” Martinez said.
The home is owned by Robert and Nancy Judd.
Robert Judd said Thursday he could not comment about Chambers because of the investigation into his death. He did not know of any family members Chambers might have.
“We could not find any,” Judd said.
Judd said his facility is for adults who can’t live alone and need help.
“Everybody is ambulatory,” he said. “Everybody comes and goes.”
Dump trucks, logging trucks and other haulers travel the road, one every minute or so on Thursday morning.
Kapowsin Highway does not have shoulders along much of its length. Anyone biking it must ride in the road.
But Chambers sometime meandered so far as to enter the opposite lane, Martinez said.
John Sherlock was at the end of his driveway not far from the accident scene on Thursday, seeing his girlfriend’s granddaughter off on her school bus.
He had done the same thing Wednesday morning and then gone back inside his home.
“We heard a truck horn,” Sherlock recalled. “It was really loud.”
Sherlock looked out his window and saw Chambers biking on the road. A truck had honked at him.
“About 20 minutes later, me and my girlfriend, we see all the ambulances,” he said.
“It’s so sad,” said Sherlock’s girlfriend, Carla Ragan. She had seen Chambers walking and biking on the road for more than 10 years, she said.
“This man has been doing this for years,” Ragan said. “He was happy as a bedbug, minding his own business.”
Next to the family’s driveway is a memorial to another accident victim, Doug Leifeste, 26. He died May 5, 2015, after a motorcycle accident on the road.
Another neighbor, Christopher Lessard, said he’s known Chambers since Lessard was a boy in the early 1990s.
“He’s always walked or rode a bike down the road,” he said.
He would playfully throw pebbles at Lessard and other children.
“He would always wave at you,” Lessard said.