Last night I linked to a horrifying story from Arkansas.
Multiple press reports indicate that a motorist plowed into a group of 13 bike riders from behind, injuring seven — three seriously enough to require helicopter evacuation to nearby hospitals.
News reports indicate they were on an organized tour riding from Charleston SC to Santa Monica. Now one of my regular contributors has dug a little deeper to get the full story.
That group of thirteen cyclists that was hit from behind are high school kids on an epic summer vacation! The tour company, Overland Summers, provides all sorts of adventures, including cross-country bike trips.
Several kids are still in the hospital, and one is in ICU, as of 7am this morning. According to Evan at the head office, parents of most of the injured are with them, having arrived by chartered plane late last night. The uninjured ones haven’t yet decided whether they’ll continue to Santa Monica. There’s another group of Overlanders two days behind, and they’ll probably make the determination whether to join with this second group once it arrives.
If the kids in this party are brave enough to push on, I totally want to meet them.
Unfortunately, the company’s website is down as I write this.
There’s no word yet on how this tragedy occurred. Distracted or drunk driving would be an obvious guess; however, we’ll have to wait for more details before we know for sure. So let’s hold off on organizing an online lynching party. It’s always possible, though unlikely, that a medical crisis or some other factor may have caused this collision.
But one thing is certain. With 13 riders on the roadway, the driver can’t make a legitimate claim he didn’t see them. If he — or she — didn’t, he certainly should have.
Meanwhile, I can’t imagine parents allowing their kids to continue on following something like this. But if they do, I hope the company lets us know.
Like my source, I want to meet them when they get to Santa Monica.
And give them a round of applause they’ll hear back in Charleston.
Let alone Arkansas.
Update: Overland Summers has issued an official statement in response to the collision, and promises to provide updates as things progress.
Newport, Arkansas – On July 2, 2013 seven individuals on an Overland bicycle touring program were injured when a car traveling on Route 17 struck the group. Police and paramedics responded to the scene. Three of the individuals were airlifted from the scene, including one individual who is in critical condition. The remaining four individuals were transported by ambulance and were being treated at local hospitals. Of these four individuals, two have been released. At this time, we at Overland would like to express our deepest concern for those injured and our gratitude to the emergency response teams.
Update 2: More detailed information from the Boston Herald.
The victims were participants in a Williamstown MA summer camp, when they travelled down to Charleston to begin the ride. The riders were hit from behind around 4:35 pm on a straight section of State Highway 17 offering clear visibility just two miles north of McCrory, Arkansas.
Charges are possible against the 21-year old driver.
Update 3: Sadly, the Overland Summer website reports that the critically injured rider, 18-year old Merritt Levitan of Milton, Massachusetts, has died of her injuries. Thanks to Andy R for the heads-up, and deepest sympathy for the victim’s family and loved ones.
And there won’t be any welcoming party in Santa Monica for the surviving riders; perhaps understandingly, the company has cancelled the remainder of the tour.