The bare maximum

Highest penalty available in bicyclist's death seems paltry

If convicted, the driver who rammed a group of bicyclists Oct. 1 on Beech Island Avenue and ended up killing one of them will face a maximum of 10 years in prison.

The minimum, in our view, ought to be nine years, 11 months, 30 days, 23 hours and 59 minutes.

And 59 seconds.

We're not going to predict what the evidence will show about the crash that put Iraq War veteran Maj. Matthew Burke -- an orthopedic surgeon at Fort Gordon and father of an 11-month-old -- in a coma until his death on Sunday. But we can say with some confidence that nothing whatsoever can be proffered that would excuse what happened.

No moment of inattention, no claim of poor vision, no gnashing of the teeth about the various sins of bicycledom can excuse having hit a large and obvious group of cyclists hard enough to have injured a handful and killed another.

But if the cyclists' assertion that they heard an engine revving just prior to the crash is true and accurate, it makes the case all the more aggravated.

A Beech Island, S.C., man, Daniel Johnson, 41, has been charged with reckless homicide, described as driving with "reckless disregard of the safety of others."

Forgive Dr. Burke's friends, family and others for thinking that's a gross understatement.

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