ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – A man died and two women were seriously injured early Sunday morning when they were struck by a car while participating in a bicycle adventure race in St. Johns County, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
The crash happened shortly after 2:30 a.m. Sunday on U.S. 1 near Interstate 95.
According to the Highway Patrol, three bicyclists were traveling north on U.S. in the bicycle lane when a sedan heading north in the outside lane of U.S. 1 veered right and struck all three bicyclists.
According to troopers, the bicyclist killed was a 46-year-old Indiana man. The 126th Medical Group Air National Guard in Illinois identified him as Capt. Troy Manz, a physician from Evansville, Indiana. Troopers said the other two bicyclists -- a 46-year-old Illinois woman and a 41-year-old Missouri woman -- were seriously injured.
Troopers said the driver of the car, a 27-year-old St. Augustine man, was not injured. The driver was heading north in the outside lane when he veered right and hit all three of them.
The FHP report shows all three were wearing helmets. It unclear if the driver will face charges.
The deadly crash happened during Adventure Races Georgia’s 22nd Annual Sea to Sea 72-hour Florida Expedition Race that began Thursday morning near Homosassa Springs on the Gulf Coast and was scheduled to end Sunday in St. Augustine.
The group confirmed that at least one of their participants was involved in an incident, and that “Safety for all participants and crew remains our highest priority.”
The accident happened right outside Michael Highsmith’s home.
“All of a sudden we heard ‘boom’ and a bunch of brakes squealing,” Highsmith said.
Highsmith said he ran outside with a flashlight and saw the three people spread far apart on the side of the road.
“I ran up on the lady first and asked her, ‘Are you OK? Do you need immediate assistance?” Highsmith said. “She said, no I’m OK. Check on the gentleman in the back. e’s not moving.’ I rolled him over, I immediately went to work, started doing CPR and checking for breaths and there was no response.”
The route put them on U.S. 1, but the people living there say even in broad daylight it’s a dangerous road to travel.
“But the first thing that man did is he jumped out of his car and he ran over there and me and him took turns the entire time until rescue came doing compressions trying to save that man’s life,” Highsmith said.
Highsmith put the memorial together and says he was the first person at the scene and tried to help them.
“Riding this road on a bicycle at any given time of the day, whether its daylight, it’s night-time or whatever it is, is just a bad idea,” said Highsmith.
The weekend ride was Thomas Quattlebaum’s first time in the adventure race. He said he finished just before the crash.
“We have several safety stand-down meetings to explain the routes and they want us to be single file when we’re on those roads. We have CPSC helmet standards we have to have and then flashing lights, reflectors,” said Quattlebaum.
He says the organizers of this event spent months vetting the course for safety, and he says he was a bit paranoid about the traffic on U.S. 1 without bike lanes.
“With all of our safety reflectors and lights, I mean, you can see us, I mean, you can see us a mile away,” said Quattlebaum. “We do everything we can. And unfortunately, that doesn’t prevent everything from happening. It’s just tragic.”
News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson even with bicycle lanes drivers should move over and pay attention to everything.
“I’m not accusing anybody of anything, but you may not have even seen them or paid attention to them because it’s so rare and uncommon to see bicyclists out at 2:30 in the morning, said Jefferson.
Highsmith says he hopes this memorial will get people to consider everything around them while driving.
“It’s meant to be a symbol for awakening, paying attention and opening your eyes,” said Highsmith.