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Hit-and-run crash kills bicyclist in Coral Gables, driver flees

A police officer investigates the scene of a fatal hit and run that killed a bicyclist at the intersection of Granada Boulevard and Bird Road in Coral Gables on Thursday, March 26, 2015.
A police officer investigates the scene of a fatal hit and run that killed a bicyclist at the intersection of Granada Boulevard and Bird Road in Coral Gables on Thursday, March 26, 2015. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

A bicyclist killed in a hit and run early Thursday morning in Coral Gables was found by police minutes after the collision, and police believe the driver responsible for the crash had to remove the bicycle from under the car before driving away.

Officer Gordon Dickinson was driving eastbound on Bird Road when he saw a body on the side of the road about “30 seconds to a minute after the crash” at 3:13 a.m., police said.

“He turned around to provide aid but the body was deceased,” said Coral Gables Police spokeswoman Kelly Denham.

The man was found with a backpack, but no identification. Officers believe he was probably in his late 30s. He was not wearing cycling clothing so they do not think he was part of the recreational cycling community.

“We do not believe he was out exercising,” Denham said.

Dickinson did not immediately realize the fatality was the result of a crash. When he surveyed the scene, he found a bike and a shoe about four blocks west at Mariola Court.

“We had a body, a backpack and one shoe,” Denham said. Because of the man's age, they do not believe he was a student at the University of Miami, which is nearby.

Officers later determined from a groove mark near the bicycle that the accident was caused by a vehicle.

“Our investigators believe that the driver must have removed the bicycle from the car,” Denham said. “The driver must have known.”

Denham says the bike did not have the proper safety lights. Coral Gables requires that cyclists equip their bikes with a front white light and a rear red light when traveling between dusk and dawn.

Miami-Dade consistently ranks among the five worst metro areas in the nation in bike-fatality rates, and Thursday’s accident is one in a string of local bike fatalities. Last year, 15 cyclists were killed in crashes with vehicles.

Recently, penalties for drivers who leave injured pedestrians or cyclists at the scene have become tougher. The Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act, a state law named after 2012 hit-and-run victim Aaron Cohen of Miami, made the offense a second-degree felony instead of third-degree.

Friends and family of Cohen, who was killed on the Rickenbacker Causeway, pushed for minimum sentencing requirements after the driver who struck Cohen walked off with a sentence of less than a year.

University of Miami School of Law Professor Markus Wagner, who was instrumental in writing the law, says more still should be done to make Floridians aware of the consequences of not helping the victim at a scene if they are involved in an accident.

No witnesses have been found. Police ask anyone with any tips to come forward.

March is Coral Gables biker safety month, and Denham says South Florida is a bike friendly community that needs to educate its residents.

“We want to educate people about the proper clothing and lights,” Denham said.

“If you see a vehicle with fresh damage today, then call,” Denham said.

If you have any information regarding this case, call the Coral Gables Police Department at 305-442-1600.

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