Bert Levy, the only one to survive of the five people struck by mass murderer David Attias’s car in Isla Vista 15 years ago, died this week at age 42. His cause of death remains uncertain, but Levy’s mother, Shary Levy, said she suspected a seizure was involved. Since being hit by Attias’s car, Shary said her son experienced one to two seizures a year.
Attias, then an 18-year-old with a history of serious psychiatric problems and drug abuse, plowed his car into a weekend crowd on Sabado Tarde in Isla Vista in February 2001, killing four and seriously injuring Bert. Bert, then 27, was about to leave the United States for Thailand to teach English and was visiting Isla Vista to say good-bye to his sister, Ruthie, a student at Santa Barbara City College. She was also one of the four slain in the killing.
Attias — who was captured on film screaming, “I am the angel of death!” upon exiting his car — was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He was sentenced to the Patton State psychiatric facility, from which he was released into supervised treatment in 2012.
For Bert Levy, the road back was long and difficult. Both his legs were badly shattered, and the brain damage he sustained affected his memory and other cognitive functions. He lived in San Francisco in the same apartment complex as his father, and in recent months he worked at his father’s law firm, handling administrative tasks. “He was fast and accurate,” said his mom. “He kept up with professional sports, especially the Raiders and the A’s. And he kept up with politics and was my own political advisor.”
Levy’s mother said her son never remembered the attack itself and that for several weeks, the family and doctors kept that information from him. At a certain point, she said, he had to be told what happened. “After that,” she said, “his mind really cleared up.”