On March 9th, 2012, 21-year-old Johnny Marino was struck by a frontloading garbage truck on the corner of Mayfield Avenue and Santa Ynez Street. The accident, which occurred between La Maison Française and Phi Kappa Psi, just a few blocks from President John Hennessy’s house, would later prove fatal for Marino, who passed away several weeks later.
Death at Stanford is generally big news. Most students know the names of Sam Wopat, Cady Hine, Akash Dube or Elizabeth Gao— the University is a small community, and such loss reaches far and deep. For Johnny Marino, however, there was no such recognition.
Marino became a driver for Peninsula Sanitary Services Inc. (PSSI) at the age of 19. According to his childhood friend and coworker Andrew Pellegrini, Marino was headed in a bad direction during his freshman year of high school. Before too long, his dad sent him off to a family friend’s house in Coalinga, Calif.
“His dad said, ‘I’m not gonna let this happen,’ so he sent him off to the cattle ranch,” Pellegrini remembered.
Pellegrini, also a driver at PSSI, recalled that Marino returned with more than just a cowboy twang.
“He came back a great person,” Pellegrini said. “He came back a cowboy with really great morals and a really great work ethic. They don’t make people with work ethic like that anymore.”
Thomas Ott, fleet manager and safety officer at PSSI, called Marino “a throwback.”
“He was a true cowboy,” Ott said.
One night, Marino and Pellegrini went to the Old Pro bar in Palo Alto with some friends. Putting his newfound cowboy skills to the test, Marino decided to take a ride on the bar’s mechanical bull.
“We went with [Johnny] and, I mean, he’s actually ridden bulls before, so they couldn’t throw him off of it,” Pelligrini remembered, laughing. “He ended up getting a T-shirt and his picture on the wall, all that stuff.”
On the morning of March 9th, 2012, Marino took a route he’d driven before, emptying dumpsters on Mayfield Ave. According to Ott, some dumpsters have wheels on them, to make it easier to roll them out of their resting places.
That morning, Marino failed to follow proper safety procedures. PSSI training teaches drivers to always position the truck downhill from the dumpster, allowing the truck to stop the dumpster if it starts to roll. Marino’s truck, however, was parked uphill from this particular dumpster.
Soon after, Marino somehow lost control of the bin. As it rolled down the street, he jumped out of his truck to grab the dumpster– but left his truck in neutral. The truck rolled down the hill and into a house on Mayfield, but only after crushing Marino against the dumpster.
“The bin started to roll, and I guarantee you the first thing he thought was ‘I don’t want that bin to hit that person’s car,’” Pellegrini said. “That’s the type of person he was. He didn’t want to damage someone else’s property.”
Ott agreed, reflecting that Marino’s pride in his work likely meant he reacted without considering his own safety.
After the accident, Marino was rushed to hospital, where friends and family would visit him every day for several weeks as he recovered.
“It was common knowledge that it was touch-and-go, and we didn’t have a lot of hope,” Ott, who visited Marino every day and sometimes several times a day, said. “Then it took a turn for the better, and we had a lot of hope.”
“The last time I saw Johnny alive, I left the hospital thinking this kid is gonna make it,” Ott recalled. “He shook my hand and looked me in the eyes. I walked out thinking, ‘He’s gonna survive this.’”
Later that day, Marino went into respiratory arrest. He was eventually revived, but it was too late. Brain scans revealed little to no activity. He passed away several days later.