I got a text early Tuesday morning- there was a serious crash near Lunken Airport and a cyclist was Air Cared out… a few minutes later I learned news that the cyclist, Andrew Gast, had passed away. I live a few miles from Lunken and am very familiar with the 5 mile trail around the airport. I climbed on the motorcycle with a full camera bag and hustled down… what I saw was, sadly, all too typical of the violent deadly crashes I have been reviewing…
Andrew Gast The cyclist apparently didn’t have identification -< insert ROAD ID advertisement here> – so it took some time to figure out who he was. He was clearly riding a high end bike – a carbon Specialized – and was out early as the crash occurred between 6 and 6:30am. The Cincinnati cycling community is pretty tight – the presidents of Queen City Bike and the Cincinnati Cycle Club were in constant contact. No one I reached seemed to know who it might be. Talking to police at the scene, they were working hard to identify the rider. Later we learned that Andrew Gast, age 27, had been killed.
From news reports, we learn that he had just moved to Cincinnati, and was living downtown in the upcoming urban Over The Rhine area. He was an investment management and trust asset manager at Fifth Third Bank downtown. His dad told the Cincinnati Enquirer that he was an active young man who enjoyed the urban lifestyle, walked to work and rode every day and was out on his daily ride when he was run down and killed.
A friend wrote that Mr.Gast loved his OTR loft and the urban lifestyle he had chosen. He was an avid cyclist, purchasing a high end Specialized carbon road bike. He had helped a young woman purchase HER first bike and was teaching her how to ride. I met this grief-stricken young lady at the crash site on Tuesday – she had been physically sick all day and had come to the scene, as we did, to honor Mr. Gast and try to make sense of a senseless loss.
At this point, CPD is saying nothing about the crash. No criminal charges have been brought against the motorist, Melvin White. No tickets were issued. This is not unusual,however. It takes time – time to process the scene – time to obtain forensic results – time to analyze blood tests – time to obtain phone records – time to have an expert review the photographs, the measurements and the data gathered at the scene and try to figure out what happened and why…
If Mr. Gast had a computer, or Garmin, that data must also be downloaded and analyzed. I have had cases where the Garmin data has proved absolutely critical to figuring out what happened. In one, there was a claim that the cyclist was speeding and Garmin proved those claims to be ridiculous. In another, there was some question of the cyclist’s route, and the Garmin traced it step for step.
The Cincinnati Police Department brought their fancy evidence collecting devices to the crash scene
Did Mr. Gast Have a Light?
There are a number of issues here… The sun had not come up at the time of the crash and, under Ohio law, both cyclist and motorist were required to be using lights. Dd the rider have a light that met Ohio’s rules for riding a bicycle on the roadway in the dark? Did the motorist have HIS lights on?
A pre-crash photo of Mr. Gast’s bike posted on his friend’s blog clearly shows a rear light. From my photographs, it certainly appears that the cyclist had a front light and there appears to be a light bracket on his seat post. Media reports of conversations with Mr. Gast’s family and friends depict him as a capable, safe road rider. Assuming this to be the case, I would think police investigators would have found the remnants of the destroyed light at the scene.
Here’s a comparison of the pre-crash bike with the light and the bike as it appeared after the crash.
Where, On the Roadway, Did The Crash Occur?
Where was the Point of Impact? How fast were the vehicles traveling? What were the visibility conditions? [There were reports of fog Tuesday monring.] Were there any witnesses who saw, or heard, the crash. What was said on the 911 calls? What was the angle of impact? What happened to the rider on impact – can this be traced? What physical evidence was found at the scene? The debris field, skid marks, gouge marks in the road? What injuries were suffered by the rider? Do these add anything to the analysis of speed?
To me, standing there and looking at the scene with the bike still stuck in the bumper of the car, it seemed to be a clear “rear-ender.” The car ran into the rear wheel of the bike at a speed high enough the blow the wheel apart, destroy the back end, cause the bike to be locked onto the front bumper and cause the rider, a large man, to smash the windshield and whack the roof. The rear triangle of the bike had been destroyed and the bike was locked against the bumper, still standing upright two hours after the crash.
Where on the roadway did the initial impact occur? The police have not given their thoughts.
One person who has posted on one of the many media stories, and who claims to be the driver’s daughter, stated that “the bike was in the lane” – which may be true. From my view of the scene, however, the location of the “gouges” and other points marked by police and the final rest, I believe the bike was either in the lane, close to the white line, or just to the right of the white line at impact.
I returned to the site in the late afternoon on Tuesday to see what police had marked. I didn’t measure off the entire length of the scene but I’m guessing it was 50 yards or so. The investigation team had highlighted several areas with orange paint. From my vantage point behind the police tape, for example, we could see how the police sprayed paint around the tires of the car at final rest – and how they marked the location of the bike.
This is a view in the direction Mr. Gast and the motorist were traveling – it is an overview of the crash site. The red circles denote areas which were “painted” by police investigators. The points A and B are discussed in more detail below.
I’m not sure what the orange in the foreground was intended to show… often crash investigators will mark the location of the debris field from the crash – where stuff landed. However, I could not get close enough to see this in the morning, and there was nothing obvious remaining later. I circled the sign marking the bike route as this was the approximate location of the car and bike at final rest.
Points A and B were different.
Point A is shown up close. Between the orange police paint appears to be a series of gouge marks on the roadway, presumably made by the bike being pushed along the ground. The marks are in line with Point B, and with the final rest. The key point is that they are to the right of the white line.
Point B is closer to the final rest. Again, these appear to be gouge marks in the road caused by the car pushing the broken bike forward.
When the vehicles come to rest, the car is straddling the white line – in line with Points A and B…
There has already been a LOT of “commentary” about this crash on various media sites – much of it from folks who have absolutely no clue what happened. The “car” people scream that bikes should not be on the road, and some “bike” people scream that car drivers are out to get them and deliberately “buzz” or target cyclists. MANY folks have tried to do perform their “analysis” of this particular crash from a single story or photo and add their endless speculation about handicapped plates, cell phones or whatever, with no factual basis at all.
As noted, the police are not talking at this point. They are doing THEIR analysis, which can be a tedious & time consuming effort. What I am attempting to present here is one man’s initial thoughts on what may be gleaned from the scene. I have NO insight into the “why” of this. However, from handling 300+ “bike” cases and many complex crash cases, and from working with some of the top accident reconstructionists in the country, I feel in a bit better position to review and analyze what I personally observed at the scene.
To me, the bottom line is that the cyclist had the right of way, and had the right to expect to ride forward and not be run over. I believe he was probably riding “legally” – with a legal rear light in the dark and towards the right side of the lane – if not to the right of the white line.
I do not believe anything intentional or nefarious occurred here – the motorist screwed up – maybe he was tired, maybe he was “overdriving his headlights” as many folks do in the dark or fog – but the bottom line, to me, is that the evidence points to a death caused by the careless, negligent operation of a vehicle by Mr. White.
In Ohio, unlike many states, careless, stupid, negligent driving which leads to the death of another can be deemed criminal misconduct. If this crash had occurred in New York City, it likely would not have even been “investigated”- it would have been considered an “insurance” matter. In other states, a “pay-out” ticket for a rear-ender may have issued. Here, police and prosecutors have the option of looking closely at this crash and determining if serious manslaughter, or homicide charges are justified.
There ARE deliberate attempts by motorists to abuse cyclists – there is NO evidence that this happened here. However, I will be posting in the near future about two separate incidents of motorist misconduct occurring in the Cincinnati area this past week or so. In one a HAMMER was thrown at a cyclist by a passing motorist. In another, a drunk passenger leaned out of a passing car and smacked the behinds of Mom, Dad and son who were out for a ride… stay tuned for those stories…
However, in THIS case, once all the data is reviewed by police, I would be surprised if serious criminal charges are NOT filed against Mr. White. While true “accidents” occur from time to time where no one was at fault – this is not one of them. The data does not point in that direction. Unless the facts shake out dramatically different than what I observed at the scene, I believe police and prosecutors will conclude that this crash, this tragic death, was caused by Mr. White, and could have been avoided by Mr. White…
The thoughts and prayers of my family and the entire cycling community are with Mr. Gast and his family and friends…