56°F
weather icon Clear

5 killed in crash were in ‘top 10 percent of cyclists’ in valley

Updated December 11, 2020 - 8:48 pm

Five seasoned bicyclists and dedicated athletes were taken unexpectedly from the Southern Nevada cycling community in Thursday’s highway crash involving a box truck.

They were key fixtures in a community now left with a “huge hole,” said Mark Weimer, co-founder of Breakaway Cycling, one of the largest cycling teams in Nevada.

“All of them were in the top 10 percent of cyclists in the valley,” Weimer told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Friday. “That’s why everyone in the bike community knew them.”

Erin Michelle Ray, 39, was an avid cyclist who had recently started participating in triathlons after a brief period of competitive bodybuilding.

Gerrard Suarez Nieva, 41, was a medical company worker and avid racer who loved long-distance rides.

Michael Todd Murray, 57, fell in love with cycling after a pelvic injury he suffered in a motocross crash that required him to get on a bike as part of his physical therapy regimen.

Aksoy Ahmet, 48, was a competitive cyclist originally from London who was always on the road, often riding side by side with his wife, Angela.

Tom Trauger, 57, was a triathlete who helped organize training camps in Las Vegas.

All five cyclists were Las Vegas residents and died of multiple blunt force injuries, according to the Clark County coroner’s office.

Breakaway Cycling has launched an official website to honor the victims. Donations may be made to the families of the cyclists on the website, which features photos of each victim.

Four others were injured — one critically — in the crash on U.S. Highway 95 near Nelson Road. Michael Anderson, a former Las Vegas police officer, identified the critically injured cyclist Friday morning in a GoFundMe campaign as Jerome Ducrocq, who authorities have said was flown to University Medical Center.

The Nevada Highway Patrol, which is leading the investigation into the crash, has not released the name of the truck driver, who was not suspected of driving impaired and was cooperative with investigators at the scene of the crash.

“This crash is still in the very early stages of the investigation,” the Highway Patrol said in a statement Friday evening.

It is unclear what charges, if any, the driver will face. Nevada law requires drivers to maintain 3 feet of separation while passing cyclists.

The National Transportation Safety Board has opened a separate safety investigation into the crash, and is coordinating with the Highway Patrol and other local law enforcement agencies regarding evidence collection.

Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson also told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Friday: “My office is working with the NHP investigators and will continue to do so throughout the investigation. At this time, the matter is still under investigation.”

Authorities have said that for unknown reasons, just before 9:40 a.m. Thursday, a white Isuzu box truck plowed into the bicyclists from behind as they rode in the southbound lanes of U.S. 95 with a safety escort vehicle.

According to Anderson, the group set out early Thursday from M Resort in Henderson to complete the roughly 130-mile Nipton Loop — just as they have done each year for the past 15 years.

As the group approached Searchlight, winds started to pick up, and about seven riders broke off from the larger group of bicyclists, sliding behind their safety escort vehicle for cover.

When the crash happened, the box truck pinned those bicyclists against the escort vehicle, which then struck the riders in the front.

In addition to Ducrocq, the bicyclist who was critically injured, authorities have said another bicyclist — identified by Anderson as Jose Vasquez — was taken to the hospital by ambulance, while a third who had minor injuries declined to go to the hospital.

Vasquez was treated for multiple broken bones, according to Anderson.

If the crash had not occurred, the group would have continued on from Searchlight to Nipton and Jean before looping back toward M Resort along Interstate 15.

Anderson, who spoke to a group of reporters Thursday afternoon about 12 miles from where he witnessed his friends die, did not mention any special circumstances surrounding this year’s group ride.

But Lelani Gonzalez, a manager at Pro Cyclery, a local bike shop, told the Review-Journal that the group was on an informal ride to celebrate the retirement of one of the bicyclists.

Anderson retired last month after 22 years with the Metropolitan Police Department.

Contact Rio Lacanlale at rlacanlale@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @riolacanlale on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer David Ferrara contributed to this report.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.