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Tuesday, November 19, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Death of motorcyclist who hit STA bus ruled a suicide

UPDATED: Thu., May 28, 2015

The death of a motorcyclist in a collision with a Spokane Transit Authority bus last week has been ruled a suicide.

Thomas Robert Dale Samples, 52, was wearing a helmet when he crashed into the bus at Crestline Street and Euclid Avenue just after 1:30 p.m on May 22. The Spokane County Medical Examiner said the collision, which shattered the front window of the STA bus, damaged Samples’ heart and aorta.

Witnesses near the scene of the crash said bus passengers, who were travelling on the STA’s Hillyard route, tried to render aid before Samples died. A Medical Examiner’s Office spokeswoman declined to comment on what led the pathologist to determine that Samples committed suicide. The office has ruled deaths in other incidents involving motor vehicle collisions as accidental.

Spokane County spokeswoman Martha Lou Wheatley-Billeter said the medical examiner is barred by law from releasing details of the investigation.

“It was thoroughly investigated and the determination on the manner of death was the result of the investigation and evidence,” Wheatley-Billeter said.

The Spokane Police Department took the lead in investigating the crash.

“We don’t have any of the information the medical examiner used to make that determination,” said Officer Teresa Fuller, police spokeswoman.

Police said earlier this week that Samples ran a red light when he was struck by the bus, which had entered the intersection on a yellow light. There is a turn lane, but no turn signal, at the intersection. STA has written procedures for entering an intersection, but the agency has said it won’t make them publicly available until June 3.

The crash was not the first fatality crash involving an STA bus, according to Spokesman-Review archives. In 1999, a woman died when her husband passed out while driving and crashed into a bus at Division and Country Homes Boulevard. In 1997, a drunken driver slammed a pickup into a bus in Spokane Valley. The driver’s girlfriend, who was a passenger in the truck, died.

Spokane police still are investigating the crash, and ask anyone with information who has not come forward to contact Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Samples was born in San Diego, California in 1963 and moved to Moses Lake in 1968 after his father died, according to an obituary recently filed with Kayser’s Chapel & Crematory in Moses Lake. He moved around frequently as an adult, most recently living in Spokane.

Samples worked as a mechanic, welder and tattoo artist, was a devout Christian, and created various forms of art, including a novel he was working to publish, the obituary says. He also loved riding and working on his motorcycle, which he named “Piglet.”

Samples is survived by a daughter, Penelope; and sisters Gladys Shirey of Spokane, Catherine Conley of Moses Lake and Roberta Samples of Grants Pass, Oregon, the obituary says. A funeral is scheduled on Saturday morning at Guarding Angels Cemetery in Moses Lake.

Staff reporter Chad Sokol and staff editor Jonathan Brunt contributed to this report.

Below is an earlier version of this report.

The motorcyclist who died after a collision with a Spokane Transit Authority bus on Friday has been identified as 52-year-old Thomas Robert Dale Samples.

Samples died at the scene of the collision at Crestline Street and Euclid Avenue just after 1:30 p.m. The Medical Examiner found that Samples died of injuries to his chest, causing lacerations of his heart and aorta. Witnesses reported seeing Samples stand up after the collision, then crumple to the ground shortly after the collision. He was wearing a helmet.

The Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the death a suicide. A spokeswoman there Thursday morning declined comment on the details of the case that led the pathologist to make that determination. Police said earlier this week that Samples ran a red light when he was struck by the bus, which had entered the intersection on a yellow light. There is a turn lane, but no turn signal, at the intersection.

STA said they believe Samples’ death is the first fatal accident involving one of its buses. Police are still investigating the crash, and ask anyone with information who has not come forward to contact Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Samples was born in San Diego, California in 1963 and moved to Moses Lake in 1968 after his father died, according to an obituary recently filed with Kayser’s Chapel & Crematory in Moses Lake. He moved around frequently as an adult, most recently living in Spokane.

Samples worked as a mechanic, welder and tattoo artist, was a devout Christian, and created various forms of art, including a novel he was working to publish, the obituary says. He also loved riding and working on his motorcycle, which he named “Piglet.”

Samples is survived by a daughter, Penelope; and sisters Gladys Shirey of Spokane, Catherine Conley of Moses Lake and Roberta Samples of Grants Pass, Oregon, the obituary says. A funeral is scheduled on Saturday morning at Guarding Angels Cemetery in Moses Lake.

Staff writer Chad Sokol contributed to this report.

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