A man who became a community fixture in Whittier by spending decades greeting drivers from his flag- and sign-adorned tricycle died early Monday in a collision with a car along Whittier Boulevard, authorities said.
Danny Martin, 61, of Whittier died in the collision, which took place about 6 a.m. along Whittier Boulevard, near Jordan Road, according to Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner Investigator Rudy Molano.
He was crossing the roadway when he was hit by a westbound 2004 BMW, Whittier Police Department officials told the Whittier Daily News. Paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene.
Martin was not within an intersection or a marked crosswalk, police said.
“The driver did come to a stop, stayed at the scene and has been cooperative with the investigation,” Whittier police Officer Hugo Figueroa said.
“There’s no signs of any foul play or anything out of the ordinary,” the officer said. “Nonetheless, the traffic bureau is going to be investigating.”
Martin had become a well-recognized face in Whittier, where he was often seen riding a tricycle decorated with a large American flag and messages glorifying Jesus Christ. He has said in the past he started the pedal-powered missionary work in gratitude for his recovery after being left in a coma and partially paralyzed following a motocross crash in the early-1980s.
Longtime friend Matt Ponce of Whittier said he was devastated by the loss. “Everybody loved him,” he said.
“He’s a good friend, a wonderful human being, a kind man,” Pone said. “He was the kind of person that just wanted to share the love of the Lord.”
Like thousands upon thousands of others, Ponce said he grew up trading waves with Whittier’s “Tricycle Man.”
“Danny, for years, since I was a child, has been waving at cars and saying hello and thanking everybody for praying for him, because he was in a coma after being in a motorcycle accident,” Ponce said.
“After that, they said he wouldn’t walk or talk again,” according to Ponce. “He just wanted to say thanks for praying for him, because he believed it helped him.
Whittier Mayor Joe Vinatieri described Martin as “Whittier’s unofficial greeter.”
Martin had been struck by vehicles before.
When a collision in 2016 destroyed his tricycle, hundreds of community members chipped in to raise money, quickly gathering more than $12,000 to replace his tricycle and cover medical bills.
“He’s been hit by a car many times, and unfortunately, this time he didn’t make it,” Ponce said.
A fundraiser was set up online Monday to help cover the cost of services for Martin. A vigil was held in his honor near the crash scene Monday evening.
Martin’s Facebook, where he urged the community to post a message indicating where he last waved to them, overflowed with tributes and condolences on Monday.
“Goodbye to one of the kindest, most genuine, loving man I have ever known,” posted J.W. Davis.
“He seemingly knew every person in Whittier and every one in Whittier would be excited and smile if they caught a glimpse of Danny Martin riding by. His smile as he waved to anyone who honked was enough to turn any gloom into a smile just to greet such a dear gentle soul,” he wrote. “No one who actually knew Danny will ever forget him.”