ENCINITAS — A community of walkers is devastated after one of their own — a man dubbed “The Walking Man” was hit by a truck on his daily morning walk Sept. 23 and later died.
What makes it worse, they say, is that he was walking to stay alive.
Encinitas resident David Goodblatt, 76, was crossing Rancho Santa Fe Road near the intersection of Lone Jack Road around 6:45 a.m. when he was struck by a Toyota Tundra pickup driven by a 28-year-old man.
The Medical Examiner’s Office reported Goodblatt was taken to Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, “where his condition continued to decline” and he was pronounced dead at 12:10 a.m. on Sept. 25.
The pickup driver remained at the scene and cooperated with deputies.
Sergeant Rob Siegried of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department told The Coast News that while an investigation is ongoing, the driver did not run a stop sign, appearing instead to just not be paying attention.
Sheri Schroeder said she’d seen Goodblatt walking in the neighborhood for at least 20 years, but never knew his name until he died. She said he was always very focused on his walks and didn’t do a lot of talking, but one day, about eight years ago, she decided to engage him in conversation.
“I finally said, ‘Why do you walk every morning, you’re so determined?’ and he said, ‘I have diabetes, I walk to stay alive,’” Schroeder said. “And that’s what I think hit me so hard, is that the irony of him walking to stay alive, he was killed. I’m sick to my stomach.”
A Dignity Memorial web page says Goodblatt was born on Dec. 20, 1942, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is survived by a woman named Sonya. The author of the page, Gary Porton, said David was one of the kindest and most generous people he had ever met.
“His knowledge was amazing in its depth and breadth,” Porton wrote. “One always learned something from David’s books and articles. One could trust David’s citations and quotations. His analyses were always well-thought out and clear … David’s life was truly a blessing to all of us who got to be with him.”
A UCSD website lists Goodblatt as faculty, saying he taught at the University beginning in 1988. The site says he received his A.B. from Harvard in 1963, an M.H.L. from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1966, and a Ph.D. from Brown University in 1972. He worked on the history of the Jewish people, Judaism and the Middle East in the millennium preceding the rise of Islam.
Schroeder says she and her husband live around the corner from where Goodblatt was struck— she heard sirens that morning but didn’t know what they were for — and they’ve been walking that intersection every morning for 10 years.
She said crossing the intersection — a four-way stop in a residential neighborhood — has long been a dangerous undertaking, saying she’s nearly been hit about five times.
“I’ve had people make a left-hand turn from Lone Jack that nearly run me over,” she said. “I remember last year (a driver) made that left turn and she probably came within 12 inches of hitting me. And I screamed and slapped her car as it went by me, because I was terrified. And she just suddenly blinks and looks at me like ‘Oh my God, where’d you come from?’”
She said just the other day, a woman told her she almost got run over while crossing the street on her horse.
“She said, ‘How do you miss a 2,000-pound animal in the intersection?” Schroeder said.
She said the danger she and her neighbors feel at the intersection is a common topic of conversation. She says every now and then they’ll get really fed up and call the sheriff’s department to patrol the intersection. She said in any given 30-minute span you will probably see 20 cars that didn’t stop.
“I’ll have a (patrol) car one or two days and they’ll come and write a bunch of tickets because it’s really easy to do and then I don’t see them again for a year or two until I call again,” she said. “And I call when I’m nearly hit, I get really mad.”
Schroeder says she does everything she can to make it easy for drivers to see her when she’s walking — she tries to wear clothes with bright colors and makes sure she makes eye contact so drivers know she’s crossing.
Schroeder said she didn’t know Goodblatt other than just a nod, but she’s incensed that somebody was that careless and killed a man.
“I’m ready to hold up a picket sign in the morning and say, ‘Hey you finally did it, you killed somebody, are you happy?’” she said. “David didn’t deserve to die.”
Editors Note: Story has been edited to reflect comments from San Diego County Sheriffs Department Sergeant Rob Siegried.