Josh Klinghoffer, Pearl Jam and Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist, accused of distracted driving in pedestrian's death

Updated
Ethan Miller

Josh Klinghoffer, a guitarist who has played with Pearl Jam and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, was distracted by a cellphone while he was behind the wheel of an SUV that struck and killed a pedestrian in March, a lawsuit filed Wednesday alleges.

Ashley Sanchez, the only child of Israel Sanchez, 47, filed the wrongful death suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Sanchez was on his way to a grocery store to make soup for his family in Alhambra, California, on March 18, according to the lawsuit. As he was walking in a crosswalk near Meridian Avenue and West Main Street, the suit says, Klinghoffer plowed into him with his vehicle.

Shortly before he was struck, Sanchez stopped at the corner to make sure traffic had cleared, according to the lawsuit. He was walking within a marked crosswalk and was halfway across the westbound West Main Street side when Klinghoffer, who was driving a 2022 GMC Yukon with no license plates, made a left turn and struck him in the back, the suit says.

Klinghoffer made no effort to hit the brakes, according to the lawsuit.

Klinghoffer’s attorney, Andrew Brettler, said in a statement Wednesday that his client was involved in a “tragic accident.”

“After the car struck the pedestrian, Josh immediately pulled over, stopped the vehicle, called 911, and waited until police and the ambulance arrived. He is fully cooperating with the traffic investigation,” Brettler said.

Sanchez family attorney Nick Rowley said in a statement that Klinghoffer "should be arrested and prosecuted for homicide."

Rowley said Sanchez followed street laws. “He did everything right, looking for oncoming traffic and abiding by pedestrian signage, but tragically Mr. Klinghoffer, in a rush and on his phone, hit him fatally from behind with a large SUV. The loss and grief that the Sanchez family now faces is immense. We will not stop until there is accountability and justice for Mr. Sanchez and his family.”

Klinghoffer is on tour with Pearl Jam, Sanchez's lawyers said. The suit says that after the incident, he never contacted the Sanchez family or showed remorse.

Representatives for Pearl Jam did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It was not immediately clear Wednesday afternoon which police agency investigated the death.

Sanchez, who was thrown or dragged across asphalt, suffered “excruciating” injuries and was pronounced dead at a hospital about 2½ hours after the collision, according to the lawsuit.

Klinghoffer had more than 40 feet of driving space and more than 10 seconds to realize a pedestrian was using the crosswalk, the suit says.

Video provided by the law firm Trial Lawyers for Justice, representing Ashley Sanchez, appears to show Klinghoffer stop after having struck Sanchez. The firm also provided a still photo that appears to show Klinghoffer holding an object, an image captured mere seconds before the collision, attorneys said.

Ashley Sanchez said in a statement: “My dad was known for being a great chef, the most talented of his family, the greatest grandpa always full of love and joy. His smile was so infectious. His life was taken by a careless act of a person who didn’t bother to look where he was driving.”

She seeks a jury trial and damages that could include funeral, burial and medical expenses, attorney fees and pain and suffering for the loss of her father’s companionship, care, love and protection, the suit says.

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