[h/t to Richard DeLombard for this link to a case I’ve been following from afar.]
A cyclist was killed in a Boston Heights, Ohio car/bike crash and the motorist was charged with vehicular homicide. Yesterday [1/14/2019] he plead guilty to vehicular manslaughter.
This was a case somewhat similar to the Brecksville, Ohio crash that killed 2 cyclists and maimed 3 others. The Boston Heights crash occurred on September 16, 2018, almost exactly three years after the Brecksville crash killed Matt Billings and Jim Lambert were killed by landscaper Tim Wolf [9/17/15]. Just five years after cyclist Emilee Gagnon was run down by motorist Lynn Smith near Toledo [9/23/2013].
The significance of that mid-late September timeline should not be minimized. That is the time of year when Ohio’s East/West roads line up almost exactly with the sun’s rise/set path. It is also a time of year that the sunsets come a bit earlier, but the great Ohio riding weather continues. It is a time when cyclists are more likely to riding during those first hours of sunrise and last hours of the day’s sun. It is a time of year when “sun glare” cases seem to crop up the most.
The Crash in Boston Heights occurred at 7:45am, after sunrise but while the sun was still low. It occurred on State Route 303. Both cyclist & motorist were eastbound, driving into the rising sun. The report states that the motorist, 58 year old Greg Kostelnik, told police his “windshield began to fog up. At the same time, the motorist’s vision also became obscured by sun glare. The driver reached over and turned on the defrost system” and “rear-ended” the cyclist, 65 year old Nickolas O’Donnell of Stow, Ohio.
As the Police Chief notes in the story Ohio law REQUIRES YOU TO STOP IF YOUR VISION IS IMPAIRED. You don’t just go tootling down the road while blind. You pull over and fix it – or wait it out – NOW.
Since the criminal case didn’t go forward, we didn’t hear any testimony or explanation. No word on a civil claim.
The case was investigated by the Boston Heights Police -not the Sheriff and not OSHP.
The evidence was clear that the Mr. O’Donnell was riding along the right side of the roadway. It was a very typical Ohio “country road” – narrow, paved, straight flat, marked.
Mr. O’Donnell was clearly an avid cyclist. He was decked out with a reflective vest over a bright yellow jacket/jersey, reflective straps, a rear Garmin red light, still operating after the crash. Yes, he had a helmet. He was on a Giant carbon road bike.
Mr. Kostelnik slammed into Mr. O’Donnell at speed – hitting him with the right front corner of his big pickup truck. Despite his “magic helmet” Mr. O’Donnell didn’t have a chance.
Glad to see the case well handled by Boston Heights PD. Sometimes, frankly, the “city level” handling of a big case is somewhat lacking b/c they just don’t get much practice handling complex crash cases. Here, they were able to lock down the evidence and secure a plea of guilty.
Yes, it’s a misdemeanor. Yes, that limits jail possibilities. The facts were that the motorist had a valid license and was not “speeding” or otherwise driving “recklessly”… Now, I and many others would argue that driving “blind” is reckless, but that’s for another day… No evidence here of drugs/alcohol… no evidence of texting or other distraction. For all of those reasons, the prosecutor chose to charge with a misdemeanor.
The memory of the Brecksville case is not one that will go away quickly. There a fellow who made a left turn in a huge pickup across the path of FIVE oncoming riders was ACQUITTED of similar misdemeanor charges… he walked out of court with a Not Guilty finding… after a week long trial. Here, the prosecutor proceeded aggressively nonetheless … and secured the conviction.