Early readers of my blog or other writings on Tandem@Hobbes or at BikeForums may recall that last September and October were two months marred by tragic losses in Texas. The first involved the loss of a co-worker when a young motorist struck him on Sept 26th while he was riding in a bike lane. Her defense was the standard, “I never saw him…” and the local grand jury declined to indict her.
The second occurred back on Oct. 1 and involved Gregory and Alexandra Bruehler. As noted in my blog entry back on January 1st, they were doing everything right while riding their tandem on a two-lane road with a wide shoulder in broad daylight in Helotes, outside of San Antonio, TX, when a 40-year old motorist failed to keep his vehicle in the travel lane, drove off the shoulder of the road and then ran down the couple as he attempted to return to the road. Alexandra was killed by the collision and Gregory died enroute to the hospital. At home was their 7-year old daughter, Kylie. As if often the case, law enforcement officials were quick to dismiss wrong-doing on the part of the motorist before a proper investigation had been performed. The local DA interceded and the Sheriff’s Office stepped back from the original statement. A trust fund was established in Kylie’s name. (Note: Donations should go to the Kylie Bruehler Benefit Fund, c/o 24165 IH-10 West, Ste. 217-720, San Antonio Texas 78275-1160)
As noted in the subject of this blog entry, the motorist was indicted this past Thursday. Rather than paraphrasing the San Antonio news story, let me offer a link to the entire article and the following extract of the first few paragraphs:
A local businessman who struck and killed two bicyclists in a wreck along Texas 16 a year ago today, causing an uproar in the cycling community, was indicted Thursday on two counts of criminally negligent homicide.
Gilbert John Sullaway Jr., 41, could face up to 10 years in prison if prosecutors prove he used his Ford F-150 as a deadly weapon while failing to control it, “maintain a proper lookout” and “timely apply brakes.”
Earlier this year, Sullaway and his insurance companies reached a $650,000 wrongful death settlement with the fathers of Gregory and Alexandra Bruehler, who left behind a now-8-year-old daughter.
The couple were riding a tandem bicycle about three miles north of Helotes the morning of Oct. 1, 2009, when authorities say Sullaway veered off the highway and hit them.
Sullaway didn’t appear to be intoxicated and was driving about 70 mph in a 65-mph zone, Sheriff’s Office officials said at the time. No traffic citations were issued, and the case was handed to the district attorney’s office in November without a recommendation about whether to pursue it.
Since then, prosecutors hired an independent accident reconstructionist and conducted their own investigation, First Assistant District Attorney Cliff Herberg said.
As always, it will be interesting to see how this case plays itself out. Sadly, even when cases like this are brought to trial, most defendants will elect to be tried in front of a jury of their peers — other non-cyclist motorists — instead of a judge and I’m not sure I’ve seen a jury ever convict a motorist who was not clearly DUI or otherwise clearly engaged in some other illegal behavior at the time of the collision with the cyclist. Again, we’ll try to keep up to date on this case and will share any updates as they come in.