SC Advocates Mourn Cyclist's Death; Commend Reckless Homicide Charge

| 2/10/2011 7:39:35 AM

Tags: South Carolina, bicycle law, Palmetto Cycling Coalition, Matthew Burke, Carolyn Szczepanski,

MatthewBurkeOn October 1, a driver struck Dr. Matthew Burke while he was bicycling with a group in Augusta, South Carolina. After months in a coma, Burke died Sunday.

The circumstances of his death were both tragic and disturbing. The group ride was a regular Friday night social that departed from Outspokin’ Bicycles in Augusta. At 6:40 p.m. that October evening, a driver collided with a pack of 15 cyclists. Some of the riders reported hearing the motorist rev his engine before the crash, which sent Burke to the hospital with severe head injuries.

Burke (pictured) was a model citizen. An Army major, he had been home from Iraq for less than a year. Stateside, he worked as an orthopedic surgeon at the Dwight D Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Fort Gordon. He had a wife, Bonnie, and 11-month old daughter, Anna. This week, they will say goodbye to the husband, father and cyclist during a funeral at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic Church. Burke was 38 years old.

On Tuesday, the man alleged to have crashed into the group of cyclists was charged with reckless homicide, which brings a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a mandatory five-year revocation of his driver’s license. During the investigation, Daniel Johnson suggested he didn’t see the bicyclists because he was reaching down for something in his car.

After months of working with law enforcement and Peter Wilborn of, the advocates at the Palmetto Cycling Coalition commended the charge. “Although we are terribly saddened by the loss of such an honorable individual, husband, father, soldier, doctor and friend to many, we are hopeful for what the charge will mean for bicycle safety in South Carolina,” Rachael Kefalos, PCC’s executive director, wrote on the group’s blog yesterday.

“The charge of reckless homicide is a correct choice for this case, and the Palmetto Cycling Coalition is grateful for the work that the Department of Public Safety and Solicitor Strom Thurmond Jr. have done to ensure Dr. Burke’s family sees justice,” Kefalos explained in the group’s press release. “It is a tragedy to lose someone so young and with so much potential to offer the world.”

3/2/2011 7:31:34 AM

I am from this area and heard about the accident when it happened. Sadly, this does not surprise me at all. As a cyclist myself, I know that this behavior is typical for so many drivers in the area. Let us hope that sad events like this will be used to better the relationship between cyclists and drivers in the future to make the roads safer for both. My heart breaks for this man's family, and my thoughts and prayers are with them.

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