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6 months after tragedy, families of dead bicyclists call for change

The cycling community gathered on Friday outside Las Vegas Cyclery to remember the day six months ago when five Las Vegas families were changed forever.

“It’s been six months since I lost my husband, my life partner, the father of my children,” Angela Ahmet said through tears. “Nothing will fix that. We know that it’s not just us that feels this pain, this devastating tragedy that rocked the community.”

Ahmet’s husband, Aksoy Ahmet, 48, was killed Dec. 10 while riding the 130-mile Nipton Loop. Michael Murray, 57, Gerrard Nieva, 41, Erin Ray, 39, and Tom Trauger, 57, also died at the scene. Four others were injured.

The driver, Jordan Barson, 45, was high on methamphetamine when he plowed a box truck through the group of 20 cyclists on U.S. Highway 95 near Searchlight. He was sentenced Wednesday to serve 16 to 40 years in prison after he pleaded guilty in April to two counts of DUI resulting in death.

Angela Ahmet asked that truck drivers be held to a higher standard, with routine drug tests and screenings before they’re allowed to operate vehicles and transport for hundreds of miles.

“The only solace when facing tragedy is to advocate for change so that more families don’t have to face the same heartbreak that we are going through,” she said.

Tom Trauger’s wife, Donna, recounted the day she lost him and how she waited, without official confirmation of his death, for nine hours until she called the Clark County coroner’s office and confirmed he was there.

“You think that when something like this happens people are rushing around, and I was hopeful that Tom was taken to a hospital,” she said. “No one official contacted me. No one called me. No one came to my house. I wondered all day.”

She asked for better procedures in Nevada when officials are handling traumatic situations. Trauger has recently been in contact with a widow in Maryland whose husband was killed while riding a bicycle in March. Trauger said five troopers went to her house to deliver the news.

“They asked her to call a friend and they waited with her until someone came,” Trauger said. “That’s what should have happened. We need to improve our procedures.”

Clark County Commissioner Justin Jones said lawmakers contacted him after the crash to see how they could better protect Nevada bicyclists from the dangers of sharing the road. Traffic schools now teach biker safety, and new roads are now required to consider bicycle traffic prior to construction, Jones said.

Keely Brooks with the Southern Nevada Bicycle Coalition said Nevada is one of 33 states to require drivers give 3 feet of space to bicyclists, but one of only five states that requires drivers to move over one lane, if available, when passing bikers on the road. The campaign, titled Change Lanes For Bikes, came in honor of the five cyclists.

“We continue to work toward the kind of changes that we need to make sure that we don’t have the same type of tragedies going forward,” Jones said.

Contact Sabrina Schnur at sschnur@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0278. Follow @sabrina_schnur on Twitter.

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