Legal issues remain after cyclist dies

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Cycling, rowing and wakeboarding were things he loved, but Anna was the apple of his eye.

Matthew Burke  special
special
Matthew Burke


Matthew Burke and his wife, Bonnie, looked forward to watching Anna grow up together. Before she turned 1, though, the couple's dream was cut short when he died Sunday evening from injuries suffered in an Oct. 1 bicycling incident.

"It's profoundly sad to lose someone that young," said Randy DuTeau, a cyclist. "He and Bonnie were doing everything right. It's just unfathomable that he's gone."

The 38-year-old orthopedic surgeon at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center met with about 15 cycling buddies at Outspokin' Bicycles early that evening for a traditional night out.

An SUV driven by Daniel Johnson, 41, of Beech Island, hit five of the cyclists about 6:40 p.m. while they traveled on Beech Island Avenue. Johnson told the South Carolina Highway Patrol he had reached down for something and didn't see the cyclists, all of whom were wearing helmets and reflective gear.

Burke was taken to the hospital with severe head trauma. The others had minor injuries.

DuTeau had opted out of the ride that night to celebrate his anniversary with his wife. When the group called and told him the news, he said, he was devastated.

Burke had been back from Iraq about a year at the time of the accident.

"I think the one thing people need to realize is that he's more than a cyclist," said John Phelan, a friend and cyclist. "He's a husband, father, soldier, doctor, friend.

"I think at this point, people should stop focusing on who was wrong and who was right and just focus on the loss."

The case is still open. Charges have not been filed against Johnson, says the Highway Patrol. Paul Burke, the victim's brother, said in an e-mail Monday evening that "we expect that Solicitor Strom Thumond Jr. will pursue criminal charges against the driver who bears sole responsibility for this tragedy."

Brett Ardrey, the owner of Outspokin', said it has been difficult for cyclists since the accident. Many, he said, are scared to get back on the roads.

The Friday ride was a time for the cycling community to come together and catch up, Phelan said. Some of that joy has been lost.

"It's been very difficult to get back on the road," he said. "You always think, 'That could have been me.' "

Ardrey said the accident has brought more awareness and safety issues to the table. He said that as the media reported the story, he learned some of the feelings motorists have against cyclists. He hopes that in the future, the two groups can learn to work together.

"I'm not in the business of law," DuTeau said, "but I can only hope that the charges will match the seriousness of what happened. There are still a lot of unanswered questions as to why it happened."

Funeral arrangements have not yet been confirmed.

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Name Not Important
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Name Not Important 02/08/11 - 03:34 pm
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Actually that's been taken

Actually that's been taken care of...about 2 years ago. I have no idea why it's still up. Seriously I'm not denying I haven't had my run in with the law but I paid my fines and I was told that was that. I've since been stopped by the police....didn't get a ticket I wasn't speeding or anything I had a broken tail-light I wasn't aware of...I was in Carolina and my license was ran and nothing came up. Thanks for trying to defame me.

At least I'm willing to admit who I am and that I've made my mistakes. Keep hiding behind your PC screen. The day I see you admit who you really are and the day I see you having the cajones to say all of this to Mr. Johnson's face is the day I start taking all of you seriously...

pguthrie
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pguthrie 02/08/11 - 03:33 pm
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Heartfelt condolences to

Heartfelt condolences to Anna, family members, and fellow friends. Matt was just a terrific guy. This is a terrible tragedy.

emergencyfan
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emergencyfan 02/08/11 - 04:15 pm
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usapatriot, you make an

usapatriot, you make an excellent point. I have had vehicles larger than my car push their way into my lane. I could stand my ground, or I can slam on the brakes and give them room (and the finger). It's not right and it's not fair, but I enjoy living too much not to give way. Same goes when I'm in a crosswalk. It's just not safe for bicycles to share the road with cars moving at 55 miles an hour. It's not fair but it's true.

I have seen nothing official that says the car in this case was "buzzing" anyone. One of the commentors said that must be what happened but from what I can tell, he or she was not an actual witness to the event.

Assuming the person was not intentionally buzzing the riders, you have to ask yourself, if he had rearended a car instead of a bicycle, would everyone be in an uproar? Chances are, it would have been a minor fender bender and the person in a car would not have been seriously injured.

From all accounts, the man who died was a wonderful person and I feel for his family and friends BUT I'm not calling my representatives and tell them to burn the driver at the stake. If there are charges to be filed, I'm sure the DA will file them in due time. (And if there was "buzzing" involved, I hope the guy gets life in prison.)

In the meantime, those of you who never been in a car accident in your life can feel free to go ahead and throw those stones.

Name Not Important
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Name Not Important 02/08/11 - 04:38 pm
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Thank you Emergencyfan....I

Thank you Emergencyfan....I was beginning to think I was the only one with enough sense to reserve my judgments. Amen to you!

truthful777
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truthful777 02/08/11 - 04:44 pm
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the_source...looks like

the_source...looks like you've been deleted again. Figures.

RaeDee8
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RaeDee8 02/08/11 - 05:28 pm
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"comments are enabled for a

"comments are enabled for a robust but respectful conversation, not for personal attacks or harassment of others...Please stay on topic."

Those of us close to this tragedy aren't taking sides, aren't pointing fingers, aren't "holier than thou", but simply are urging more education for drivers like in NY, (mandatory in driver licensing), are urging for more accountability in this case, are urging for the thorough investigaion be conducted, are urging all to confine comments to this incident, are urging believers to pray for God's strength and healing for our families. Many thanks to you who have done this for us.

usapatriot
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usapatriot 02/08/11 - 05:32 pm
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a couple of you should read

a couple of you should read the rules to understand why posts were pulled. I'd imagine several more comments should have been pulled for "not staying on topic". The religious debate didn't apply here.

readerfrompa
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readerfrompa 02/08/11 - 05:39 pm
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I think the district attorney

I think the district attorney should be ashamed that there have been no charges filed in this case. It is absolutely ridiculous that any human being should lose their life in such a manner and the person responsible is not held accountable. A young woman is greiving the loss of her husband and a young child has lost the most important man in her life - her devoted father. Their little girl is going to grow up having no relationship with her own father, no memories even of the man he was. And I'm assuming that his parents were put in the horrible position of having to bury their child - something no one should ever have to do. These losses cannot be recovered from. Their suffering will continue until the end of time. And yet the man who chose to either, at best, let himself be distracted while driving or, at worst, deliberately chose to "bump" into the cyclists because he was annoyed has lost nothing - not even his driver's license. Ridiculous. Absolutely, completely ridiculous.

truthful777
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truthful777 02/08/11 - 05:54 pm
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I so agree, readerfrompa.

I so agree, readerfrompa.

PeaceBWithU
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PeaceBWithU 02/08/11 - 06:19 pm
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Thoughts and prayers for all

Thoughts and prayers for all involved. Such a senseless tragedy. Hopefully, if nothing else, we'll all be more aware and more polite on the road....

truthful777
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truthful777 02/08/11 - 06:34 pm
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usapatriot-I never once

usapatriot-I never once brought up religion and my post was deleted as a result of someone reporting it as abusive. It was not abusive in any way, shape, or form.

markallenshells
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markallenshells 02/08/11 - 06:38 pm
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If a car rearended another

If a car rearended another car with the same difference in speed, there may have well have been injuries, at the least the driver that did the rear ending would have been investigated and most likely fined, or worse.

USA Patriot...You call yourself such because you believe in America and the Freedoms it holds, yes? Still you feel that it is proper to disobey traffic laws? and still more, you feel misdeeds by the masses are rightful in taking the rightful freedoms of another? you actually think that a person should give thier rights up to free travel and choice because some bullies and criminals on the road make it tough? I don't hide behind a screen as no name contends. Would be glad to tell MR JOHNSON what I think to his face, and I have every right to. A Patriot? of what I ask?

send me a message..we can continue there.

gailkaitschuck
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gailkaitschuck 02/08/11 - 07:05 pm
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Unbelievable....A motorist,

Unbelievable....A motorist, by his own admission not paying attention to his driving, plows into five bike riders, all wearing protective gear, killing a brilliant young orthopedic surgeon....and this man still has no pending charges.

All the religious and "I got flipped off by a bike rider and I was stupid enough to step on the gas and race off" diatribes aside, the real question is why isn't Daniel Johnson sitting in jail as he should be?

Gail

usapatriot
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usapatriot 02/08/11 - 07:13 pm
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Folks, calm down. Maybe the

Folks, calm down. Maybe the reason charges weren't filed immediately was for this very reason. Life or death of the victim. I have no doubt that the outcome will be deserved and forthcoming. It seems some of you believe the authorities are heartless and ignorant.

markallen, please check your emotions. I didn't advocate anyone giving up their rights. I cautioned them in exercising them. It was my right as a motorcyclist to the road, but I saw the writing on the wall and chose to get off it. To each their own. You assume risk every day for numerous decisions.

markallenshells
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markallenshells 02/08/11 - 07:37 pm
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When I was 14 years old, I

When I was 14 years old, I held one of my best friends in my arms to watch him bleed to death because a drunk driver hit him in the head with his truck mirror while we were riding our bikes. Back then it was such a rarity it hardly slowed me down, maybe even increased my resolve.

That man Chose to drink and drive, he chose to, he knew it was wrong but he did it anyway and John is dead because of it.

Mr Johnson chose to do what he did, and he killed Matt. No excuse from the peanut gallery will change that, no sympathy for Mr Johnson will bring Matt back. How many of you choose to do the wrong thing and just get lucky? how about we advocate choosing to do the right thing as much as we humanly can? so no one else needs to die.

Choose live and let live

the_source
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the_source 02/08/11 - 08:46 pm
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@Name Not Important: No harm

@Name Not Important:
No harm or defamation meant. Just pointing out that those who break the law are much more lenient on others who also break the law, statistically.

TakeAHike
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TakeAHike 02/08/11 - 08:56 pm
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Words cannot even begin to

Words cannot even begin to describe what a tragic loss Matt’s death is and the disservice to society that Daniel Johnson has done. We mourn for his family and for ourselves. As I struggle with getting through this, I keep hoping to find something positive that can come of it. Reading these posts quickly dashes my hopes for that. People who were not at the scene and do not know the driver or us throw salt in our wounds by chastising us for wanting to see the truth come out and justice served. I was there and everything about Johnson’s behavior that night and since screams that this was an intentional act. We cringe when someone refers to it as an accident. Many of you have said that nothing you’ve read supports our allegations. Most facts have been left out of the newspaper as the Chronicle’s reporting style appears very risk averse unlike papers such as the NY Times or Washington Post. I suspect that this is out of necessity for a small city paper with limited financial resources. Name Not Important asserts “…this was NOT INTENTIONAL.” How can you? You don’t know Johnson or me and you weren’t there; as such you simply have no basis for that statement.
Here are some facts: The sight line Johnson had was at least half a mile between the traffic light and us on a straight section in a 35 mph zone. The driver directly behind Johnson saw that he was speeding at ~50+ mph and he said that no one could miss seeing 15 of us in our loud attire and bright blinking lights. Although Johnson changed his story several times, let’s go with his last one in which he claims he didn’t see us because he was briefly reaching for something. Okay… let’s do some math. (60 min/hr)/(55 miles/hr) = 1.2 min/mile. Or 0.6 min/0.5 mile.
Was he truly distracted for 36 seconds? That’s a long time! If he were going the speed limit he’d have had to be “distracted” for an even longer time. There’s no way he’d have still been on the road, let alone in the correct lane and driving straight while plowing through a bunch of invisible cyclists! Furthermore, my Mazda would have been little match for his huge Dodge Durango under the same conditions. What if I’d been driving too slow for his taste instead? Had he hit me in my car the same way he’d hit Matt, I’d expect that my car would be totaled, I’d be seriously injured and my dogs in their crate would be killed.
The numbers don’t lie, but I suspect Johnson does. I implore you to please join us in our call for action from law enforcement so that the truth can come out and justice can be served. Thank you.
JS

TakeAHike
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TakeAHike 02/08/11 - 08:58 pm
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I have to call out a few

I have to call out a few other items:
Scgator: I ride the white line and that’s exactly where I was when Johnson hit Matt, my friends and me. None of us rides 4-5 abreast. Furthermore, your description of some group of cyclists riding 4-5 abreast is irrelevant. Holding me responsible for someone else’s behavior simply because I also have a bike is ludicrous! It makes no more sense than if I were to hold you accountable for Daniel Johnson’s misdeeds because you own a car and live in Beech Island. Same goes for poster storiesihaveread. I don’t know the person you encountered and I have no control over his actions. Would you like to be compared to the likes of Daniel Johnson and Drew Thomas Ward simply because you drive a car?

Usapatriot: I look forward to the day I can look Daniel Johnson in the face, speak the truth and hold him responsible for his deed. That’s why we need for law enforcement to take action!
JS

the_source
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the_source 02/08/11 - 09:26 pm
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@TakeAHike: I can't say that

@TakeAHike:
I can't say that I fully understand how you feel. I have a special compassion for soldiers and veterans, especially disabled veterans. While I do not know Dr. Burke, that he was in the military tells me almost all I need to know of his character and sense of duty, things that overly forgiving liberals like "Name Not Important" will never understand. It is our troops like Dr. Burke who fought for "Name Not Important"'s right to downgrade this tragedy as an "accident" rather than have it labeled as manslaughter at the very least.

Rest in peace, Dr. Burke. Thank you for serving and protecting us. My condolences to Dr. Burke's family and friends.

happychimer
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happychimer 02/08/11 - 10:06 pm
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Johnson has been arrested.

Johnson has been arrested.

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