Yesterday, I wrote a post-mortem for Jocelyn Lovell, whose career was cut short when a dump truck ran him down and broke his neck. He would live the second half of his life, which ended last Friday, as a quadriplegic. The trauma nurse who helped to airlift him to Toronto Sunnybrook Hospital immediately recognized him when he returned 18 months later for a round of rehabilitation. She rushed to his side, grasped his hand and tearfully exclaimed, "Jocelyn, we thought you were going to die!"
Whatever miracles, whatever interventions, kept him in this world for the next 32 years weren't forthcoming for five cyclists near Kalamazoo, Michigan. Debra Ann ("Debbie") Bradley, Melissa Ann Fevig-Hughes, Fred Anton (Tony) Nelson, Lorenz John (Larry) Paulik and Suzanne Joan Sippel were all run down from behind by a blue Chevy pickup truck.
In the minutes before the tragedy, police were seeking that vehicle after receiving three separate calls saying that it was being driven erratically. The driver, a 50-year-old area resident, is in custody while authorities decide on what charges should be filed against him. Among them might be one for DWI, according to the latest reports available as of this writing.
One very notable aspect of this story is that the victims were all experienced cyclists who had been riding with each other weekly for more than a decade. Ms. Fevig-Hughes, age 42, was the youngest of them, while Mr. Paulik, 74, was the oldest. Another disturbing aspect of this tragedy is that it struck in daylight, on a street in a residential area. At least one witness tried to alert the cyclists and the driver, to no avail.
Four other area cyclists were injured and are hospitalized. Jennifer Lynn Johnson is in fair condition, while Paul Douglas Gobble, Sheila Diane Jeske and Paul Lewis Runnels are in serious condition.
According to witnesses, these cyclists were a familiar sight to many in the area and were known to abide by all laws, regulations and accepted safety practices. Thus, according to Paul Seiden, "The tragedy underscores the need for increased awareness and re-dedication on the part of the community as a whole to the safety of bicyclists when they're on the road." Seiden, the director of road safety for the Kalamazoo Cycle Club, added, "In an accident like this, everybody loses."
Truer words have never been said. As a fellow cyclist and human, my thoughts are with Debbie Bradley, Melissa Fevig-Hughes, Tony Nelson, Larry Paulik and Suzanne Sippel and their families and friends. I can only be thankful that I have not met a fate like theirs, and hopeful that I never will.