Aiken cyclist who was killed on tandem bike had cut back on rides

Monday, Feb. 6, 2012 7:02 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012 12:10 AM
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Gerald Hooker was a thinker.

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Opal Hooker stands in the garage where her husband, Gerald, stored his handmade canoes. He was struck and killed by a vehicle trying to pass their tandem bicycle when they were out riding Sunday.  JACKIE RICCIARDI/STAFF
JACKIE RICCIARDI/STAFF
Opal Hooker stands in the garage where her husband, Gerald, stored his handmade canoes. He was struck and killed by a vehicle trying to pass their tandem bicycle when they were out riding Sunday.

He had two master’s degrees – one from Harvard – and a bookshelf crammed with titles such as Principles of General Thermodynamics. He was also a cyclist, spending long hours biking South Carolina’s country roads or hiking the backwoods; even at age 68, he was fit enough to tote a 40-pound rucksack.

On Sunday, Hooker was killed on one of his rides when the tandem bicycle he and his wife, Opal, were riding was hit by a vehicle on Banks Mill Road near Aiken.

His death comes almost a year after Pascal Limouzin, a French national working at Savannah River Site, suffered severe head injuries when he was hit by a car on Banks Mill Road. Monday marked the first anniversary of Dr. Matthew Burke’s death after a cycling wreck in October 2010 on Beech Island Avenue placed him in a coma for four months.

In an e-mailed statement, Randy DuTeau, of the cycling advocacy group Wheel Movement, said “we were deeply saddened to hear that another local cyclist has died as a result of being struck by a motorist. … These incidents underscore the importance of educating both motorists and cyclists on the rules of the road.”

The Hookers were making a left turn onto Lone Oak Drive when they were hit by a 2009 Ford driven by 23-year-old Whitney Duncan, of Aiken, according to Aiken County Coroner Tim Carlton.

South Carolina Highway Patrol is investigating the wreck. Attempts to reach Duncan on Monday by phone and Facebook were unsuccessful.

Opal Hooker said she and her husband took every precaution on the road. That included changing their route to stay out of traffic and cutting back on how often they went riding.

“People are just careless, or they think you don’t have the rights to ride on the road,” she said.

Gerald Hooker was a mechanical engineer by trade and applied the methodical, intentional mindset of his career to almost everything in life, she said. His three children, now grown, learned early in life not to go to dad with homework questions because he would cover the entire history of algebra before getting to the answer.

Though he enjoyed his solitude, Hooker took friends and family along with him on camping trips. His garage is dominated by two canoes and a kayak he painstakingly carved by hand – one of the many hobbies he mastered. Pictures from those trips show Hooker as a wiry man wearing a floppy hat, glasses and a thin, white beard. He didn’t smile much

His son, Craig Hooker, is getting married in May. His father was going to be the best man.

“He had a lot in life to look forward to,” Opal Hooker said.

Comments (14) Add comment
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comet2u
28
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comet2u 02/06/12 - 08:15 pm
0
0
Another two lives over

Another two lives over because one of them was either in a hurry or 'distracted' and coul not simply yield to a bicyclist. Well, your not going anywhere quickly now. Do we have your attention?

CabisKhan
150
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CabisKhan 02/06/12 - 09:55 pm
0
0
Did the Hookers turn left

Did the Hookers turn left from the right hand side of the road towards Lone Oak drive and thus in front of Whitney Duncan causing a tragedy for both families? Did they use a hand signal for the left turn intention? More details are needed in the article.

Ian Brett Cooper
0
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Ian Brett Cooper 02/06/12 - 10:07 pm
0
0
"Did the Hookers turn left

"Did the Hookers turn left from the right hand side of the road towards Lone Oak drive and thus in front of Whitney Duncan causing a tragedy"

Wow! You're a piece of work. Mr. Hooker's body is barely cold and you're already trying to blame him for his own death. Yes, we need more information. What we don't need is people crawling out of the woodwork to blame the victim.

dstewartsr
20389
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dstewartsr 02/07/12 - 12:24 am
0
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IBC- You should take some of

IBC- You should take some of your own medicine; if there had been some obvious culpability the automobile driver would have been taken into custody. Not every driver is a bloodthirsty fiend, nor every cyclist a model of perfection, but mistakes by drivers are less likely to cause their deaths. That is the way it works, regardless of how angry and vindictive that makes you.

moonlighter6
13
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moonlighter6 02/07/12 - 05:20 am
0
0
I rode a bike on Bank Mill
Unpublished

I rode a bike on Bank Mill Road at seven years of age, 45 years ago. It was dangerous then much more so today. Forget walking, running, or bicycling on the road.

REDRIDER
134
Points
REDRIDER 02/07/12 - 08:40 am
0
0
Unfortunate for all involved.

Unfortunate for all involved. If you turning left on to another road. You have to yield to on coming traffic. Regardless what you a riding or driving. Although all the facts are not presented and I not familial with that intersection. Also if the vehicular was trying to pass at an intersection is a no no I can see everyone's point. Still a Sad Situation.

curly123053
4638
Points
curly123053 02/07/12 - 09:40 am
0
0
I yield to bicyclists all the

I yield to bicyclists all the time. I changed lanes for a group riding Whiskey Rd between Aiken and New Ellenton Sunday morning going to church. But, I have a hypothetical thought and question. If I were to drive my car at the same speed as a bicycle in the right lane wouldn't that be somewhat irritating to traffic behind me? They would be stuck behind me on a blind curve unable to pass as I leisurely drove my car at what...5mph. I would probably get horns blown at me.....a few cross words too....and most likely get a citation for obstructing traffic and driving below the minimum speed limit since I was driving my car at that speed. Get my drift? So, what's the difference between me riding a bike at 5mph or slower on a highway being discourteous by obstructing traffic and driving my car at 5mph obstructing traffic and being discourteous? The only difference I see is that some liberal allowed the state legislatures to believe that it was okay for a bike rider to obstruct traffic. Some liberal tricked the politicians into believing bike riders did not have an obligation to be courteous enough to pull their bikes to the side and let traffic proceed by, or that bike riders did not have to adhere to the minimum speed limit. I used to ride my bike all over Aiken, but I had no problem pulling my bike to the shoulder when a car came up behind me because I felt like I was being courteous by not holding up car traffic. Now a days bike riders stay in the road with dozens of cars lining up behind then only because they can.
I will continue to show courtesy for bike riders when I come across them for their safety, even though I know they rarely do the same for traffic. I am sorry for the loss of this man and I will keep his family in my prayers.

allhans
23619
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allhans 02/07/12 - 10:06 am
0
0
You can slow and pass any

You can slow and pass any person (or animal) and be able to stop if they enter your lane. When I see a person walking his dog, his child, or just walking by the road, I slow down. Way down. I don't know what their intentions might be I slowly and carefully drive past them...

If we can't be courteous as a driver, when should we be?

madgerman
236
Points
madgerman 02/07/12 - 10:15 am
0
0
When I was a kid riding my
Unpublished

When I was a kid riding my bike, I knew that cars were bigger than me and I always made sure that there was no traffic before I made any kind of turn. I also had mirrors on the bike to see what was coming up behind me, and a light on the front. I also knew better than to ride in the street and hinder traffic. I would really like to know how this tragedy occured before I blame the driver and insist on sending him to jail. I would appear that the bike rider had a lapse of judgement and an accident ensued. Just curious, but was the wife hurt? It is strange that she wasn't hurt in the accident and they were on a two person bike. My heart goes out to this family in their time of grief. They lost a special person who was apparently a loving father and husband.

storiesihaveread
358
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storiesihaveread 02/07/12 - 11:27 am
0
0
Prayers to the family of the

Prayers to the family of the victim.

storiesihaveread
358
Points
storiesihaveread 02/07/12 - 11:33 am
0
0
Now on to my soapbox. I work

Now on to my soapbox. I work downtown Augusta, at times i come in on weekends. Seems that downtown Augusta attracts bike riders on weekends. I always thought that a person on a bike has to obey all laws as a person driving a car. I can not tell you how many times I have seen bike riders not stopping at red light or waiting until the light turns green to go. Am I wrong that bike riders have to obey all traffic laws like a car would?
About 4 months ago a bike rider ran a red light I had the green light I started through the light and almost hit him. I blow my horn and he flips me off.

desertcat6
1140
Points
desertcat6 02/07/12 - 11:57 am
0
0
Everyone should obey the law.

Everyone should obey the law. Even the ones endorsed by liberals, conservatives or independents. Driving car or riding a bike makes no difference. Neither is an excuse to act recklessly. An unintentional death is one of many outcomes.

bdouglas
4976
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bdouglas 02/07/12 - 12:26 pm
0
0
@madgerman The wife was also

@madgerman The wife was also taken to the hospital with minor injuries and later released. If (and a big if, since it hasn't been determined) they turned left into her car's path (the driver is a she, by the way) and he was riding in the front position he probably took the brunt of the crash while his wife was thrown off. Again, that's just a logical assumption *if* that is actually what happened.

rmwhitley
5547
Points
rmwhitley 02/07/12 - 12:26 pm
0
0
Know the facts before
Unpublished

Know the facts before assuming guilt. Automobile and bicycle drivers have lapses in judgement at most inopportune times.

allhans
23619
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allhans 02/07/12 - 12:37 pm
0
0
bdouglas, but..if she was

bdouglas, but..if she was passing them, as reported, then the circumstances would be different.
Surely the cyclist would have known a car was behind him.

mikeblanco
0
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mikeblanco 02/07/12 - 01:23 pm
0
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dstewartsr,- While we don't

dstewartsr,- While we don't know the details here, unless the driver was drinking they generally don't get a ticket for hitting, and even killing, a cyclist or a pedestrian. They just don't, no matter how egregious they were. On the other hand, the pedestrian or the cyclist almost always wins a civil suite no matter how silly what they did was. Just the way it is.

mikeblanco
0
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mikeblanco 02/07/12 - 01:28 pm
0
0
Curly, The only place there

Curly, The only place there is a minimum speed limit is on Interstate highways, where bikes are not allowed. I wish most drivers were as interested in following speed limits as they were about complaining that others don't drive fast enough. As an experiment, drive your car rigididly following the speed limit and watch the nuttiness that insues as people risk everybodies life to get to a red light 15 seconds earlier.

twolane
191
Points
twolane 02/07/12 - 01:31 pm
0
0
well they have a million
Unpublished

well they have a million dollar bike path in north augusta that i have maybe seen one to two bicylcles on a week when im driving to work...you can ride allllll day by the river without fear of getting hit but they just have to ride on roads with sharp curves.....out in appling i cant count how many times i come up behind cyclists that are taking up the entire lane NOT SINGLE FILE as the law states but two or three abroad in the middle of the lane....not too smart with all the logging trucks driving that road during the day......or when they ride at night in pitch black dark with those dark bike outfits cant see them until you are right on top of em

bdouglas
4976
Points
bdouglas 02/07/12 - 03:08 pm
0
0
@twolane I'm no avid bike

@twolane I'm no avid bike rider or anything, but assuming you're referring to the trail along 520 on the SC side, surely you've also noticed the trail is *outside* of the fence that goes along the interstate. And there is no fence on the other side of that trail, which runs near some seriously shady parts of NA. Heavily wooded and making for an easy retreat for a would-be criminal. Not to mention the fact that--unlike the Greenway--it is completely in the sun along the entire trail. I'm pretty sure the trail was an afterthought to spend stimulus money, because it sure wasn't thought through at all. There isn't even a proper parking area along it with a water fountain, bathrooms or any sort of amenities.

twolane
191
Points
twolane 02/07/12 - 03:23 pm
0
0
the up above is exactly what
Unpublished

the up above is exactly what im talkng about out there in the middle of nowhere in appling there are no amenities bathrooms

Bicycling
0
Points
Bicycling 02/08/12 - 10:28 am
0
0
Redrider - the car was not

Redrider - the car was not “on-coming,” she was coming from behind the bikers...and unless he didn’t use a hand signal and/or turned at the last second (which is extremely unlikely) then she is responsible.

Curly - we try to ride as close to the white line as possible, which is the law, and often “on” the white line while being passed. If you see riders not doing this, then they are being discourteous. I appreciate your giving us the space. Also, most group cyclists ride btwn 18-30mph, not 5.

Mikeblanco - excellent point about speed limits. Cars rarely, if ever, follow them.

Twolane - rarely do group riders not wear rear flashing lights at the minimum. What do you do when you're on vacation in a rural area and need to go to the bathroom?...you stop at a convenience store, go to the bathroom and buy food. So do cyclists.

One other comment: while drivers and cyclists all need to follow the law, be courteous and pay attention!, our officers also need to better familiarize themselves with the laws. There are numerous incidents where drivers aren't properly ticketed. This includes a recent incident in Atlanta where a cyclist, who was partly responsible for passing the new “3 Foot Law” was hit by an off-duty police officer(!) that was unaware of that law. The cyclist, who was relatively unhurt, had to pull up the law on his smart phone to prove it to them!

Little Lamb
45867
Points
Little Lamb 02/08/12 - 10:58 am
0
0
I have no idea where Banks

I have no idea where Banks Road is or what the speed limit is. But in general I would say that making a left turn on a highway would be just about the most dangerous thing a bicyclist could do. You can do dangerous things many times and be successful. But sooner or later you will be unsuccessful. My condolences to the family. It sounds like he was a great guy.

oldredneckman96
5095
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oldredneckman96 04/17/12 - 04:13 am
0
0
Physicis will tell you,
Unpublished

Physicis will tell you, without any degree of any kind, that when a bike meets a vehicle the bike loses. And then everyone loses, no mater who is at fault. We don't mix vehicles on train tracks or trains on runways for the same reason. Ride like you should walk, facing traffic and yielding for vehicles and everyone can live.

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