Charity bike ride turns tragic when driver crashes into cyclists
Man in critical, woman suffers broken bones after collision near Kingston, Ont., during 7 Days in May event
UPDATE: Ontario Provincial Police said Wednesday a 51-year-old Kingston, Ont., man is facing four charges, including impaired driving. Read more at CBC News.
A man is fighting for his life and a woman is recovering from broken bones and a punctured lung after a car struck several cyclists during a charity bike ride outside Kingston, Ont.
The collision happened Sunday during the second day of the 7 Days in May ride, a 1,200-kilometre journey around Lake Ontario to raise money for Pancreatic Cancer Canada.
"It's one of those moments you never want to have to experience," 7 Days in May founder Gord Townley, whose daughter was seriously injured in the collision, told As It Happens host Carol Off.
Townley was not there when the car struck, but arrived on the scene shortly after.
He said the charity event's cyclists were broken into groups riding from Cobourg to Kingston when one man hit a pothole, fell off his bike and hit his head on Bath Road, near Jim Snow Drive in Loyalist Township.
One of the cyclists in his group — a former fire captain whom Townley describes as "a true hero" — took control of the scene.
"He stabilized the cyclist, brought him over to the side of the road, had traffic stopped while [they] cleaned up the scene, and was attending to his injuries," Townley said.
Once the group had pulled the injured man to the side of the road, Townley said traffic resumed.
That's when things took a turn for the worse.
A van passed by slowly and "very appropriately" moved to the left to give space to the group of cyclists who had congregated on the shoulder of the road around the injured man, Townley said.
That's when he says a car came speeding up, swerved onto the shoulder and attempted to pass the van on the right, striking the group of cyclists.
The car, he said, slammed into his daughter, then brushed the retired fire captain, the injured man and a third cyclist, all three of whom were thrown over the guardrail.
"Then the car actually bumped against the guardrail and carried on and then struck the last cyclist head-on so hard that the windshield was knocked back into the car," Townley said.
"It was only at that point that the driver applied brakes, and then the car careened a little bit over and went across the road and rolled into a ditch."
That's when Townley, who was cycling with another group, arrived.
"As I'm walking onto the scene, I hear 'Daddy!' from the side and I went over and noticed my daughter for the first time, obviously in quite a bit of distress," he said.
Her boyfriend, who was also part of the group, was comforting her while the fire captain attended to her wounds, he said.
Erin Townley suffered a broken arm, several other broken bones and a punctured lung, her father said. She underwent emergency surgery on Sunday night and is now recovering in Kingston General Hospital.
He lost somebody close in his family to pancreatic cancer a few years ago and this is a cause he took quite personally.- Gord Townley, referring to critically injured cyclist
The man who was struck head-on is in critical condition, Townley said. The Kingston Whig Standard reports that he is from the Burlington, Ont., area, and that his family has asked for privacy.
The former fire captain suffered bruising and was treated at the scene, Townley said. The cyclist who hit the pothole has been released from hospital with minor injuries.
The driver was also taken to hospital, but Townley does not know what condition he is in.
The ride continues
The Ontario Provincial Police declined to release any specific details about the collision, saying only that the investigation is ongoing.
Townley, meanwhile, is continuing the ride alongside his fellow cyclists with the blessing of the critically injured man's family.
"He lost somebody close in his family to pancreatic cancer a few years ago and this is a cause he took quite personally," Townley said.
"We actually have his jersey with us on our ride, so we'll go around the lake and we'll certainly be signing and returning it to him and his daughter at the end of the week."
Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Julian Uzielli.