UC Berkeley researcher expected to recover after life-threatening collision

Mike Wilson/Courtesy

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After a traffic collision Feb. 2 left her with life-threatening injuries, UC Berkeley researcher Megan Schwarzman is expected to recover from the incident.

The 42-year-old scientist at the Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry, or BCCG, had been riding her bicycle down Fulton Street when a vehicle traveling in the same direction struck her at the intersection of Bancroft Way, pinning her underneath. Berkeley Fire Department officials arrived on scene within two minutes of the incident to extricate Schwarzman and rush her to Highland Hospital in Oakland.

“Meg has made it clear that she is so grateful,” said Mike Wilson, Schwarzman’s husband. “What they were able to do so effectively and so quickly is saving her life.”

The driver of the vehicle — 47-year-old Berwick Haynes of Sunnyvale, California — was arrested the night of the collision on suspicion of driving under the influence, pending further investigation, according to Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Officer Jennifer Coats.

In the 48 hours after the incident, Wilson wondered whether his wife would survive her critical injuries, let alone retain her mental capacities and help raise their 11-month-old son. But Wilson said he has recently grown confident that Schwarzman will thrive throughout the arduous recovery process.

As a co-founder and associate director of the BCCG, Schwarzman became interested in underlying causes of disease after working at medical clinics in underserved communities, according to Wilson. Her studies often focus on reproductive wellness and the link between human rights and chemical exposure. Additionally, Schwarzman and her husband have authored numerous publications together, including a 2014 study on the potential of chemical policy to improve consumer-product safety.

“I have never seen her flag, even under demanding and distressing circumstances,” said Thomas McKeag, executive director of the BCCG, in an email. “Her high-energy persona does not eclipse her finely tuned sensitivity to others and she is one of the most diplomatic and genuinely caring persons I have known.”

For Wilson, the collision raises questions about public safety and the city’s regulation of traffic speeds. As a public health expert and cyclist in Berkeley for about 15 years, Wilson said city traffic moves too quickly and advocated an immediate speed-limit reduction.

City spokesperson Matthai Chakko could not be reached for comment.

According to Coats, the intersection of Bancroft Way and Fulton Street has seen two other traffic collisions since January 2015, one of which was a vehicle-pedestrian collision. In July 2012, a cyclist — Shlomo Bentin, a guest lecturer at UC Berkeley — died after colliding with a dump truck at the same intersection.

Wilson said it remains to be determined whether Schwarzman will make a full recovery, but he remains optimistic, emphasizing his wife’s resilience.

“(Considering) the nature of her injuries, I don’t know whether a full recovery is in the future or not with her,” Wilson said. “But she’ll be intact intellectually, and her spinal cord is intact. She’s going to see her baby boy, and she’s going to be with me.”

Andrea Platten is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @andreaplatten.