Driver is charged in death

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Daniel Johnson was in the Aiken County jail Tuesday night, charged with reckless homicide in an October crash that killed a bicyclist, records show.

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Johnson, 41, was charged 19 weeks after the crash on Beech Island Avenue that critically injured Dr. Matthew Burke, an orthopedic surgeon at Fort Gordon. Burke died Sunday.

Johnson was booked at 7:25 p.m. Lance Cpl. Judd Jones of the South Carolina Highway Patrol confirmed the charge Tuesday night.

The crash happened about 6:40 p.m. on Oct. 1 as a group of about 15 cyclists pedaled their usual Friday route after leaving Outspokin' Bicycles in Augusta.

Some cyclists said they heard a pickup's engine revving right before the moment of impact on the rural, two-lane road. The impact knocked over four cyclists but launched Burke into the air. He suffered severe head injuries and remained in a coma until his death.

Burke, a U.S. Army major, worked at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center and spent six months in Iraq. He is survived by his wife, Bonnie, and 11-month-old daughter, Anna.

A funeral is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic Church, his brother, Paul Burke, said Tuesday.

Laura Farmer was one of the cyclists struck by the Dodge Durango driven by Johnson.

The road rash on her arm has healed into a scar, but a torn rotator cuff still pains her, even after more than four months of therapy.

She said she has been troubled by the pace of the investigation, but was glad to hear that a charge had been filed.

"That's good news," she said.

A message for Solicitor Strom Thurmond Jr. in Aiken was unreturned Tuesday.

South Carolina law defines "reckless homicide" as driving a vehicle with "reckless disregard of the safety of others."

A person who pleads no contest or is convicted of the charge faces no more than 10 years in prison and a mandatory five-year driver's license revocation, according to scstatehouse.gov.

In a separate incident, cyclist Pascal Limouzin is still in the hospital after he was hit by a car Jan. 23 on Banks Mill Road in Aiken.

The driver, Drew Ward, fled but turned himself in a week later and is charged with hit-and-run with great bodily injury, according to SCHP.

Tom Lex with the Aiken Bicycle Club said safety on the road is the responsibility of both motorists and cyclists.

Law enforcement can help to a point, but most roads in Aiken County belong to the state and troopers are spread too thin to be much help, Lex said.

"What is feasible is thoroughly educating the public on the laws and rights of cyclists on the road," Lex said.

Since the wreck in October, Farmer has ventured out twice on a bicycle. But it has been on a protected path away from the road at Fort Gordon.

Whether she rides in Beech Island again is another question.

"Maybe when people pay better attention," she said.

Comments (102) Add comment
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augusta citizen
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augusta citizen 02/08/11 - 10:33 pm
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Here is what so many have

Here is what so many have rallied for.

nofrills
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nofrills 02/08/11 - 10:56 pm
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I hope this make everybody

I hope this make everybody feel good but it doesnt change the fact that these bike riders need to stay in their own state so it doesnt happen again. Beech Island and Jackson Roads are so out dated and are barely safe for two cars to pass when you add a bike rider you put everybody at risk all in the name of you have a right to ride. Just because you can doesnt mean you should. Before any of you decide you want to remove my head from my shoulders just think how easy it could of been you behind that wheel. Maybe one in ten of you drive correctly the rest are multitasking and driving. from adjusting the radio to make up and lighting up a smoke, talking on the cell phone and yes talking to somebody else in the car. now you may chop when ready but it wont change my opinion.

Fiat_Lux
14638
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Fiat_Lux 02/08/11 - 11:07 pm
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'Bout damn time. How about

'Bout damn time. How about the other cyclists he injured? Does he get a pass on them?

rdbike
47
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rdbike 02/08/11 - 11:24 pm
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Now that Johnson has been

Now that Johnson has been charged in the death of Dr. Burke, when is he going to be charged for hitting the others? What is wrong with SC law enforcement when they wait to see if someone dies first before charges are filed? SC law enforcement has handled this wrong from the start.

markallenshells
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markallenshells 02/08/11 - 11:25 pm
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@nofrills: yeah, people

@nofrills: yeah, people running people over tends to do that to me. Bike lanes are a nice thing, but will not save lives unless drivers do , like you say, take life seriously. Slowing down and waiting to pass a cyclist is actually more often than not, easier than passing any other slow moving vehicle. I mean we are anly doing about 20! sometimes we are in a large group, maybe two times or three times a week for only a short time. Is it too much to ask for just a little leeway? Cyclist and bikes don't hurt anyone, cars and bad drivers do. I won't stop calling an ace and ace, a bad driver killed Matt and he is going where he belongs, Maybe it will shake some sense ito all of you who make excuses for bad driving and poor descisions on the road. quit making sound like the cyclist made you do it, it's just not true.

augusta citizen
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augusta citizen 02/08/11 - 11:42 pm
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markallenshells, what??? I

markallenshells, what??? I stated a fact, didn't make an opinion. I think the comments on this story from BOTH sides have been the most mean spirited I've ever read on this blog. I didn't know Dr. Burke, from the compliments I've read, I wish I had, it sounds like he was a wonderful man, husband, father, son, brother, friend. I appreciate your prayers for my family, I also pray daily for the safety of my entire family. I have prayed often for Dr. Burke and his family since this horrific tragedy was first reported, especially for his baby girl.

censorshipiswrong
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censorshipiswrong 02/09/11 - 12:26 am
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@Augusta Citizen, I took it

@Augusta Citizen, I took it as a sarcastic remark, my apologies. Cyclist have endured decades of harassment from motorist all because they feel we take up some of their time and their road. We are justifyably angry and when our group is torn apart by a bad driver it's like stirring up a hornets nest. This person took a life by not giving a damn. It's happening all too often, people should be angry. he is getting what he has coming.

TakeAHike
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TakeAHike 02/09/11 - 12:37 am
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Thank God! This guy scares me

Thank God! This guy scares me even when I'm in my car and driving through Beech Island. I just hope now he'll give it up, confess his real reason and accept that he deserves to convicted and serve the maximum time. It would save a lot of time and we'd be able to put this behind us and move on to more positive efforts. We need to make roadways safer for everyone. After all, road rage isn't just directed at cyclists. People with road rage put us at risk when we're driving our cars, too. They put everyone at risk and anything could set them off. No cyclist necessary!

nofrills, what makes you think all cyclists are from Georgia? I live in South Carolina and I pay Aiken County taxes, too.

Clemson Engr in GA
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Clemson Engr in GA 02/09/11 - 12:41 am
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Troopers/Prosecutor did the

Troopers/Prosecutor did the right thing. If
Someone is expected to die from a vehicular
Accident (must be within the 3 year time
limit of the accident), then charges for
homicide should be delayed to avoid a
potential of incurring double jeopardy.

This way charges for reckless homicide
are correctly filed, so prosecution plans and
preparations won't have to be amended
and replanned and the same for the
defense team.

If something else were filed early, he could
push for a speedy trial and then couldn't
Be charged for the homicide because of
Double jeopardy.

censorshipiswrong
0
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censorshipiswrong 02/09/11 - 12:47 am
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It is a shame that Matt had

It is a shame that Matt had to die to make some people sit up and take notice. Careless drivers will be held accountable. Clemson Egnr is correct in his statement. Terrible, if Mr Johnson is sorry, it would be a good time to announce it. or maybe not, I don't know. Please just stop the killing. This whole thing sucks. All he had to do was pay attention to the road, thats all he had to do.

hdrider
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hdrider 02/09/11 - 04:21 am
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I wish the same justice was

I wish the same justice was afforded to the many motorcyclists killed by vehicle operators that, "just didn't see him/her." I realize there is a good number of riders that ride aggressively in excess of the speed limit, but not in all cases. My mother and father were recently plowed over from behind on their motorcycle while waiting to make a left turn. Fortunately they weren't killed. Where's the outrage in these types of accidents? I think it was last year in ATL when a motorcyclist was hit from behind in a similar manner and drug for a distance. No one was rallying for a public hanging then.

Greg Burlingame
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Greg Burlingame 02/09/11 - 06:22 am
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Justice is being served.

Justice is being served. "Feel good", no, words cannot express how I feel about this incident. Loss, Great Loss, sorrow, saddness, crying,no more words.

rmwhitley
5506
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rmwhitley 02/09/11 - 07:03 am
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Mr. Johnson will have his day
Unpublished

Mr. Johnson will have his day in court. High fives are not in order. Dr. Burke is still with God.

agustinian
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agustinian 02/09/11 - 07:26 am
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Thank you Mr. Thurmond, for

Thank you Mr. Thurmond, for allowing the justice system to proceed. If Mr. Johnson is found not guilty by his peers, so be it. But the system needs to be exercised; and not pre-empted with no charges being filed in the first instance, as happened when Mr. Bill Adams was run down and killed by a speeding motorist in November 2009 -- and no one charged with his death.

augusta citizen
8477
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augusta citizen 02/09/11 - 07:31 am
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I'm sorry to anyone who took

I'm sorry to anyone who took my remark as sarcastic, it was in no way meant to be that way. I assumed the whole time that charges would come. I think Clemson Eng is correct about how SC was trying to handle it. I understand that it was frustrating for Dr. Burke's family and friends to have to wait though. I went very slow on Stevens Creek Rd. yesterday due to a cyclist and no safe opportunity to pass, it didn't delay me by more than a couple of minutes. I didn't know what "buzzing" was until the blogs I've recently read, but can't imagine doing anything like that to another person. May God bless all involved, this is a terrible tragedy.

nofrills
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nofrills 02/09/11 - 07:55 am
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Ok, I give up. I think

Ok, I give up. I think Johnson should be put in prison for life. I think bikes have an equal right to be on the road and anybody who disagrees should be locked up with Johnson. After all, only Bike riders in this forum have any real opinion. @ jer62058- A lack of education doesn’t mean I am ignorant. Nor does it mean your any better. I’ve served my country; I have worked my whole life, paid taxes and raised good kids.

HCclassof1995
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HCclassof1995 02/09/11 - 08:01 am
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The justice system is being

The justice system is being given a chance to work. That is all anyone could have reasonably hoped for. But judging by the tenor of the online comments that have followed this tragedy, I fear the case may be won or lost during jury selection, that a jury box full of "drivers" could somehow imagine that the "bikers" got what was coming to them.

I'm appalled that the same kind of obliviousness, self-interest, and sense of entitlement that permeates our political discourse could also infect what should be a memorial for a true hero.

I was lucky to have been a teammate of Dr. Burke's in college. I can tell you that his intelligence was matched only by his courage and physical endurance. Your community has suffered an incalculable loss.

Iamacyclist
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Iamacyclist 02/09/11 - 08:26 am
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I wish Mr. Johnson would make

I wish Mr. Johnson would make a statement to tell us all how he really felt when those 15 cyclists in front of him were slowing him down during his Friday night ride home to his house at the top right of the hill.

I think reckless homicide is somewhat lenient; but the SC legal system can only go with charges that they can prove.

HCclassof1995 great comment; my thoughts are with you along with Dr. Burke and his family.

Lima59
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Lima59 02/09/11 - 08:59 am
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Nofrills I am seething at

Nofrills
I am seething at your ignorant comments. Well, you served your country and have held down a job, even raised kids! Wow, lets have a parade! Guess what, so have the rest of us! When you display such ignorance, THATS what reflects your education or lack of!! Dr. Burke was Not simply involved in a horrible accident, as he peddaled out in front of Johnson vehicle. Dr. Burke was LEGALLY riding in a group of 15, on the straighest road I have ever seen, on a clear day. Johnson, who witnesses stated, reved his engine just before impact, had an AOI (area of impact) dead center on the hood of his SUV. There was NO oncoming traffic in the opposite lane, which would have prohibited him from merging left, heck he didnt even have to slow down, since he was in such a rush, after all, It is HIS road,...because he lives there!! All he had to do is go to the left of the bikers. INSTEAD, he chose to RUN Dr. Burke down, and Kill him. He was going to show dem yankee folk, those over educated outsiders, that he Be a proud local, and owns dat road!! Well, he sure made his point. Problem is, outside of the Beech Island, his point is called MURDER!! You need to wake up and stop trying to defend this cowardly act as if it were some simple accident. Your comments and absurd point of view insulting to Dr. Burke and his family! Too bad Dr. Burke will never get the chance to raise his kids, as you did. Johnson took that opportunity away from him in an OBVIOUS deliberate act on Oct. 1st. WAKE UP!!!!!

saywhatagain
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saywhatagain 02/09/11 - 09:08 am
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I cannot speak to the Beech

I cannot speak to the Beech Island accident because I am new to the area and have never driven that road. What happened there was unspeakably terrible. My heart goes out to the family that has lost their husband and a daddy. I am a husband and the daddy of three precious children myself. On the other hand, I HAVE driven on Banks Mill Road in Aiken, which causes me to think this: I have the right to swim in the ocean, but when there is a dangerous rip tide, is that wise? I have the right to climb a tree in my yard, but at my age (60) is that wise? I have the right to pick up every hitchhiker off the side of the highway, but is that wise? It is not without good reason Proverbs 1 communicates that "wisdom" cries out in the streets...looking for someone who will listen. I know how men think because I am one. Husband/daddy, please be wise for the sake of your wife and children.

airbud7
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airbud7 02/09/11 - 09:16 am
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It takes 12 people to

It takes 12 people to convict!!!

Lima59
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Lima59 02/09/11 - 09:39 pm
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saywhatagain, I dont think it

saywhatagain, I dont think it would be "Wise" as you say, to even come out of our homes with people like Johnson operating 3,000lb vehicles, and useing these vehicles to "make his points" to the outsiders, who dare come down his road. Once again folks, this WAS NOT AN ACCIDENT, he ran Dr. Burke down. He has a history, and there is mountains of evidence that shows this, not to mention his comments both before and after this murder. Please STOP talking like this was some kind of cat that ran out in front of Johnson. YES, we all get it, SURE, riding a bike is and can be dangerous, flying in an airplane can be dangerous also, we just dont count on the pilot willingly crashing the plan into the ground to make a point, when maybe some outsiders or Non locals, dare fly in his airspace! This was MURDER! Stop disrespecting Dr. Burke and his family with all this constant talk about accidents, and how we shouldnt play with matches, or stick fingers in light sockets etc. etc. Johnson wanted to make a point on October 1st, and that is NOT some simple accident. Big difference!

Iamacyclist
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Iamacyclist 02/09/11 - 09:23 am
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Airbud7, thats why they ONLY

Airbud7, thats why they ONLY charged him with reckless homicide.

the_source
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the_source 02/09/11 - 09:24 am
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saywhatagain said "I HAVE

saywhatagain said "I HAVE driven on Banks Mill Road in Aiken, which causes me to think this: I have the right to swim in the ocean, but when there is a dangerous rip tide, is that wise?"

The driver who hit the bicyclist on Banks Mill Road, Drew Thomas Ward, was in five (5) previous accidents as well as a in a car fire that he caused by dropping a lit cigarette in his own car. This idiot never should have been driving and I'm astounded that he was able to get vehicle insurance at all (unless he was driving without insurance).

I agree that Banks Mill Road is winding and can be dangerous, but only when drivers are stupid like Ward or careless like Johnson. This shouldn't be an excuse for any drivers to drive like those losers. Unlike a rip tide, people (most of them, anyway) are sentient beings who have complete control over how they behave. Well, in comparison to Ward, maybe a rip tide is more intelligent since it probably won't set the ocean on fire.

Lima59
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Lima59 02/09/11 - 09:54 pm
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Clemson Engr You make very

Clemson Engr
You make very good points. Lets now hope the "system" works, and this Coward gets some REAL incarceration time. For those that feel the need to STILL find any way to defend Johnson, and act as if he simply made a mistake, I say research the case, he ran Dr. Burke down in broad daylight on a long, straight away. Imagine if your loved was plowed down by this scumbag, bet you wouldn't then go so out of your way to defend him. Absolutely repulsive that people are TRYING to defend this animal !

eschamb
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eschamb 02/09/11 - 09:55 am
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What does the law state about

What does the law state about the requirements of cyclists and their responsibilities on the most POV traveled road, and highways? I am referrign to helmets, safety gear, protective wear, etc.

Drain Bamage
41
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Drain Bamage 02/09/11 - 10:00 am
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Find a High School and ride

Find a High School and ride around their track..Stay off the road..You'll live longer

Lima59
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Lima59 02/09/11 - 10:11 am
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Yup, good point Drain Bamage.

Yup, good point Drain Bamage. Then, we can also find a private road course to drive our cars on, as when there are no more Bicycles violating Johnsons road, then surly he will start hitting us in our cars! We all want to "live longer" so your right, just need to go find all this private land.

censorshipiswrong
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censorshipiswrong 02/09/11 - 10:28 am
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It would be a better thing to

It would be a better thing to just remove bad drivers, then many people would live longer..about 50,000 a year! not to mention the millions injured, some for life! Adults and children that will never walk, or see, or play, And it NOT because of bicycles. Its because of the attitude mirrored by Drain Bamage and Mr Daniel Johnson.

chascush
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chascush 02/09/11 - 10:32 am
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‘I agree that Banks Mill Road

‘I agree that Banks Mill Road is winding and can be dangerous, but only when drivers are stupid like Ward or careless like Johnson.’
I agree with saywhatagain. Riding a bike on Banks Mill is very dangerous with all the sharp curves. I know I would not ride a bike there.

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