Driver charged after 5 cyclists seriously injured
Published Monday, July 20, 2009 5:16PM EDT
A 45-year-old Ottawa man is charged with five counts of failing to stop at the scene of an accident after a minivan plowed through a group of five cyclists, leaving at least one man fighting for his life in hospital.
Robert Wein, 36, was the most seriously injured. He remains in critical condition after being treated for severe brain trauma. Friends describe him as a dedicated father of two and a focused triathlete who completed a half-Ironman triathlon last weekend.
Fellow cyclists Mark White and Hilary McNamee are both in serious condition. The family of Rob Harland doesn't want his condition released.
Officials at the Ottawa Hospital said all four cyclists are doing poorly.
Meanwhile, Cathy Anderson, another cyclist, is in stable condition as she recovers from surgery at the Queensway-Carleton Hospital. Her arm and elbow were badly fractured in the crash.
Police said the group was run down by a van travelling northbound on March Road at Solandt Road in Kanata just before 8 a.m. on Sunday. The driver fled the scene.
The victims were transported to hospital after an off-duty bylaw officer found the cyclists scattered over an area that spanned 120 metres. Their injuries include concussions, broken bones and lacerations.
Pieces of sunglasses, water bottles, and other debris also littered the road.
Police investigation continues
Police said they are examining anything that may have been a factor in the crash, including speed and alcohol.
"The officers are trying to establish how the collision occurred - what were the circumstances prior to the collision? Where was this gentleman . . . prior to this? Where did he start his trip?" said Const. Alain Boucher of the Ottawa police.
Investigators are also trying to determine where each of the cyclists was at the time of the crash.
"Whether they were in the bike path or in the roadway, it's still to be determined," said Boucher.
Man charged, remanded in custody
Although the driver fled the scene, police made an arrest after a suspect turned himself in to police hours later.
Sommit Luangpakham is charged with five counts of failing to stop at the scene of an accident causing bodily harm.
Luangpakham, who has no previous criminal record, appeared in court on Monday. Two family members attended the courthouse to offer their support.
Following a brief court appearance, Luangpakham's lawyer offered little about his client's state of mind.
"From what I understand, he is previously someone of unblemished character. No criminal record. He is someone who's employed," said Oliver Abergel.
Luangpakham was remanded in custody until Thursday to give police more time to continue their investigation, at the Crown's request.
Due to the grave conditions of the victims involved, the Crown said they are expecting more charges to be laid.
Sharing the road
The cyclists were part of a group that cycle together every weekend to train for triathlons. They were travelling together in a dedicated cycling lane on the four-lane road; all were said to be wearing protective gear, including helmets.
But even with a cycling lane, some riders say March Road in Kanata often feels unsafe with a constant procession of speeding vehicles whizzing by in the 80-kilometre-per-hour zone.
"How could this happen in such a wide road with their own bike lane?" said Rick Hellard, who helped train Wein -- the most seriously injured-- for his latest triathlon.
"My heart goes out to the family of all of them, not just Robert's, but the whole cycling community is pretty shaken," he said.
Last year, 262 bikers were injured after being hit by a vehicle.
Anyone with information about the collision is asked to call Ottawa police at 613-236-1222 ext. 2481 or Crime Stoppers at 613-233-TIPS.
With a report from CTV Ottawa's Catherine Lathem