In West Burlington, Iowa, a criminal trial will begin against Marvin Oberly, 61, who ran down 21-year-old bicyclist Douglas Kenney just over a year ago. See if this sounds familiar:
Kenney died shortly after being taken to the hospital Nov. 9 last year from injuries he suffered after being hit by Oberly’s pickup while he rode his bicycle to work in the 1700 block of Mount Pleasant Street. He had moved to West Burlington three months prior to the accident to live with his grandparents to raise money for college.
Officials said Kenney was riding his bicycle on the shoulder of the road and then came back onto the road. The pickup truck came up from behind and collided with the bicycle. Kenney went airborne and landed 114 feet from the point of impact. His bicycle was dragged by the truck and was found 209 feet from where he first was hit.
“Mr. Oberly did not attempt to take any evasive action to prevent colliding with the bicyclist, including traveling to the left-hand lane, which was free of traffic and other obstruction,” investigators stated in a complaint filed in court in August.
The particulars of the case are an eerie echo of the deaths of Larry and Sierra Gaunt, who were struck from behind by a pickup driven by William K. Johnson, who was charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter. At his trial, Johnson, who had, like Oberly, failed to pass the cyclists even with an empty lane to spare, had the following to say for himself:
Assistant prosecutor Traci Stansell asked Johnson, “Do you know what ‘share the road’ means?” “Yes,” he answered. More than once, Johnson was asked why he didn’t move over into the clear left lane. Force of habit, he replied. It was, he said, his driving style.
Despite strong evidence, Johnson was acquitted, much to the dismay of the Gaunt family and the local cycling community.
In the Iowa case, Oberly, will stand trial on charges of driving on the wrong side of a highway and passing on the wrong side, misdemeanors punishable by 30 days in jail for each. He also faces up to a year suspension of his drivers license.