Patrick Wanninkhof, who once wrote that bicycling was in his blood, was struck and killed on an Oklahoma highway while taking part in a cross-county trek for charity.
The 25-year-old, who was living in New York but is originally from Key Biscayne, was making the long-distance ride from Maine to California as a part of the Bike & Build project when he was struck on Thursday. Bike & Build members make long-distance trips to raise money for affordable housing.
The Bike & Build website, of which Wanninkhof was a group leader, says it has donated more than $5.1 million and spent over 185,000 hours building housing for the poor. Wanninkhof’s sister Suzette completed a similar cross-country bike trip in 2014, riding from South Carolina to California.
“He’s the perfect example of drive and determination to better the world,’’ Suzette Wanninkhof, his younger sister, said Saturday. “He did more in 25 years than many do in their entire lifetime. He was so wonderful. He taught in the Bronx, started a computer sciences program when many thought he was crazy. He taught code to those kids in the Bronx and they loved it. He was such a good person.’’
According to a story on Oklahoma’s KTOV-6 website, Wanninkhof’s group stopped in Tulsa last weekend to do work for Habitat for Humanity.
The group of 26 cyclists left Portland, Maine on June 21 and planned to make it to Southern California by August 31. Wannikhof was struck about 200 miles southwest of Tulsa near Elk City, Oklahoma.
Wanninkhof, a 2008 graduate of Coral Gables High School, graduated suma cum laude from the University of Florida in 2012 with a degree in Materials Engineering.
He earned a Masters in Teaching Adolescent Physics at Fordham University in New York and was living in the Bronx working as a high school teacher.
Wanninkhof, whose father Rik is an oceanographer at the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory of NOAA in Miami, taught physics and computer science for three years at Fordham High School for the Arts as part of the Teach for America program.
“He really was committed to the issue of affordable housing, and he was working as a schoolteacher in the Bronx where he saw the importance of housing as a part of education,’’ Dr. Rik Wanninkhof told The Oklahoman.
“He did very well in his studies, and we were surprised that he didn’t go into industry work, but he wanted to do something that affected people’s day-to-day lives. So he applied for Teach for America. We were very proud that he did that.”
According to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Patrick Wanninkhof was struck by a Chevrolet driven by Sarah Morris, who said she was distracted and looking at her phone. Wanninkhof was declared dead at the scene of the accident.
Bridget Anderson, 22, was Wanninkhof’s riding partner on Thursday morning and was also hit. She was airlifted to a local hospital with a leg injury.
Suzette Wanninkhofsaid the family plans to hold memorial services for Wanninkhof in Miami and New York as well as one in California when his riding group makes it there at the end of the month.
“We’ll spread some of his ashes in the Pacific,’’ she said.