BURLINGAME -- An off-duty San Mateo County Sheriff's deputy was killed Wednesday when a car turned in front of him while he drove a motorcycle, police said.

Deputy Eric Mertl, 51, was rushed to Stanford University Hospital after the 12:15 p.m. crash on El Camino Real, but was later pronounced dead. The lifelong Burlingame resident leaves behind a wife, 12-year-old son and a career of over 25 years in law enforcement.

"He treasured spending time with friends and caring for family," the Mertl family wrote in a statement. "He never lost sight of his inner child as evidenced by his annual trips to Disneyland, his joking nature and his ability to view the world from an unbiased perspective."

Mertl was riding south on El Camino Real when a Lexus, attempting to make a left turn onto Bellevue Avenue, turned in front of him, Burlingame police Capt. Mike Matteucci said. Mertl, who was wearing a helmet, hit the broadside of the car.

The 64-year-old San Carlos woman driving the Lexus said she didn't see Mertl, Matteucci said. The woman, whose name was not released, appears to be at fault for the crash, but was not arrested or ticketed, he added.

The woman didn't appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but authorities took a blood sample for testing.

"It looks like it was just an accident," said Matteucci.


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Mertl grew up knowing he wanted to be a police officer and was one of Millbrae's first Police Explorers, a law enforcement mentoring program for young people. He later became a Millbrae officer and worked there for the next 19 years, his family said. He joined the sheriff's office in 2005.

During his career he worked as a canine and motor officer but also stayed involved in youth mentoring. He was most recently appointed as range master and a Taser instructor.

His family said he was an outdoorsman who loved camping, hiking and "appreciated the intrinsic beauty of nature." He was also a dedicated father and husband of 18 years. Despite the demands of his work, he never took for granted those closest to him, his family said.

"His tenacious, enthusiastic, and proud demeanor served him well both personally and professionally," his family said.

Anyone who saw the wreck can call Burlingame police at 650-777-4100.

Contact Joshua Melvin at 650-348-4335. Follow him at Twitter.com/melvinreport.