Location: Wichita

No Charges Against Inattentive Driver Who Paralyzed RAAM Cyclist

Finally, a decision on the case of the Race Across America Cyclist Struck By Car in Kansas near Wichita back in June … unfortunately, one that’s sure to disturb and infuriate anyone who cares about justice.

From KAKE in Wichita:

Diego Ballesteros CucurullThe man who hit a Spanish cyclist who was riding in the Race Across America in June will not face criminal charges.

The driver was cited for inattentive driving and given a ticket, but police could not determine if there was anything illegal being done to cause the driver to drive onto the shoulder of K-254 Highway. Police checked cell phone records and could not find any evidence that the driver had been using it when he hit the cyclist.

Diego Ballesteros is in a rehabilitation hospital in Barcelona, Spain, after cycling enthusiast Ben Sciortino and his wife loaned him $21,000 to return home last month. Sciortino says Ballesteros’ friends and family have already reimbursed him but that Ballesteros will still need help.

“Diego had already forgiven the driver of the car that hit him,” Sciortino said. “He is in good spirits even though doctors in Spain have told him he will be paralyzed from the ribcage down.”

“He is still in the hospital and will be for quite some time,” Sciortino continued. “When the paralysis is as high as it is, he will not have use of his back muscles but will still have use of his arms.”

Ballesteros trying to put the accident behind him and look to the future. He hopes to continue his bicycling next year with the use of a bicycle that is specially-built for paraplegics that allows the rider to pedal with their hands.

Right now, Ballesteros’ need is financial. He will never be able to walk again and his apartment in his hometown of Barbastro is a 4th floor walk-up. He will always need help getting into and out of his wheelchair.

Friends in Wichita have set up the Diego Ballesteros Benefit Fund at the Carson Bank at 4641 East Douglas Avenue. Those funds are being forwarded to Ballesteros in Spain. [read more]

The driver was Keith J. Swoverland, age 22, of Wichita. Diego Ballesteros Cucurull was participating in the Race Across America (RAAM) as part of the 4-person COANFI Desafio ASPANOA relay team, which withdrew from the event when Diego was injured.

Here’s an interview with Diego, from KWCH:

 

Best wishes for your recovery, Diego.

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About The Author

By Randy Rasa, editor/webmaster at Kansas Cyclist, the web's premier Kansas cycling information site, featuring authoritative guides to Kansas cycling clubs, bike shops, organized bike rides, touring, trails, and much more. [learn more]

6 Responses to “No Charges Against Inattentive Driver Who Paralyzed RAAM Cyclist”

  1. Sean says:

    What a shame. I was really pulling for Ballesteros, hoping he’d regain the use of his legs. Until we start treating the operation of a motor vehicle with respect, we’ll continue to excuse this kind of crap. The motorist should have lost his license for a few years at a minimum. Inattentive driving is less than a slap on the wrist.

  2. Mark says:

    I hope a law suit will be filed against the car driver. He shouldn’t be allowed to destroy a person’s life without taking the responsibility for his care and medical expenses.

  3. Mark Schooley,MD says:

    This is really maddening. I ride with a DiNotte 400R, including on 254. Drivers move over. Nobody should be hit. But there’s a benefit to sending a loud visual message to less-than-fully-attentive drivers to get their attention and get them to move over. I rode a lot 30-50 years ago “invisible”. I’m not doing it anymore. My “legal rights” vs. a 3000+ lb vehicle traveling 40+ mph faster than I, not interested in testing my “legal rights” . I’d just rather send drivers a message, “I’m this obstruction ahead of you, move over.”

    Is Wichita riding bad? Yes. It’s alwful. The wind totally sucks. It just does, and you all know it. Bad drivers? With the DiNotte 400R, actually drivers are good. On 254 they go to the left lane, even though I am in the parking/shoulder lane. I don’t get zipped by in the right lane, even though there is room for right-lane passing. Wichita drivers are A-drivers, if you warn them you are ahead.

  4. Mark Schooley,MD says:

    Mostly, drivers here are not used to dealing with bikes in vehicular lanes–a cop advised my wife (who commuted 11 mi to work and 11 back 7 years ago) to ride the sidewalk as much as possible. He was thinking of her safety. After I got a Dinotte, and we rode together, she loved riding in the road.

    Very, very few people here are malicious. They just get flummoxed suddenly seeing a cyclist 3 seconds ahead, with little time to assess traffic and make a smooth go-around-the-cyclist. Give them 20-30 seconds to calculate and look around, maybe slow a bit, but not have to hit their brakes, and it’s a completely different story.

    I haven’t seen the MagicShine taillight here, just the headlights. I think the MS taillight may work great as a driver-signalling/wake-up device.
    I think Planet Bike Superflash blinkies are excellent at night. They just don’t have the lumens for daytime driver-alertment. Dinottes do, and I suspect the new MS taillight does too.

    Cars rear end each other. And they are more visible than we are. Massively expand your visibility, and see what happens.

  5. Randy says:

    Thanks for mentioning the MagicShine taillight, Mark. I have the headlight, and it’s awesome, but wasn’t aware that they’d come out with one for the rear. Will have to seriously consider that…

  6. Mark Schooley,MD says:

    Randy, , try the MS out, and report what happens. I wear a mirror, and I watched what drivers did with the DiNotte. Changing lanes way further behind, honks went from circa 1 per ride to 1 per 20-30 rides. People in cars rolling down their windows and telling my wife and me, “I saw you way behind, that’s a great light,” informed me, it was working really well.

    Some asked what we had, we told them, I’m guessing they were cyclists, but they were apparently daunted by the high price, because my wife and I are still the only ones riding them, to the best of my ability to discern. I’ve seen one guy on a bent riding a 140R. He is quite visible.

    It’s important to think about COMMUNICATING your presence to drivers, if you want them to see you early, give you room, and let you ride in peace. Give them time and space to relaxedly figure out how to go around you, and nobody gets upset. I’ve ridden in Wichita, Overland Park, Gunnison-Crested Butte, New Hampshire-Vermont, Wyoming, Arkansas with bright taillight illumination, bright sunshine, overcast, dusk, night. It really works!

    I got clued-in seeing a guy a few years ago with a bright flashing headlight 300 yards ahead of me, riding towards me just before sunset, trees behind him, “shading riders out” and I realized, “Wow, his light really alerts me.” I wasn’t riding with a light at the time. His light got me to thinking, “I’d like to be a lot more visible too.”