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Sign posted in fatal wreck

Accident frustrates motorists, bicyclists

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Dan Johnson dropped by his old friend's house this week and asked John Yonce for any support he could give his son, Danny Johnson.

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Friends of Danny Johnson's family initially posted a sign on Sand Bar Ferry Road after Johnson's father asked them for help.  Zach-Boyden Holmes/Staff
Zach-Boyden Holmes/Staff
Friends of Danny Johnson's family initially posted a sign on Sand Bar Ferry Road after Johnson's father asked them for help.


"Just don't make it negative," Yonce said Johnson told him.

Yonce was glad to support Danny Johnson, who posted bond on Wednesday after he was arrested in connection with an October wreck that fatally injured a bicyclist.

After giving it some thought, Yonce made a sign with the word "cyclist" in a circle with a slash through it. It was planted prominently Friday at the edge of his yard on Sand Bar Ferry Road, where the hundreds of cars that pass that way every day -- and the cyclists coming to Beech Island -- could see it.

When a reporter showed up on his doorstep Friday evening to inquire about the sign, though, Yonce had a change of heart.

"We need to be positive," said Yonce, 64, who removed it and planned to replace it with another.

The sign, though, is evidence of some of the frustration felt by Beech Island residents in the past few months toward cyclists and, to a certain extent, toward media coverage of the wreck.

On Oct. 1, about 15 cyclists were pedaling their usual route on Beech Island Avenue when five were hit from behind by Johnson's Dodge Durango.

One of them, Matthew Burke, was critically injured and remained in a coma until his death Sunday. Burke was an Army major and an orthopedic surgeon at Fort Gordon. He is survived by his wife and an 11-month-old daughter.

Yonce's wife, Diane, said Beech Island residents, including the Johnson family, have been heartbroken over what happened to Burke.

She said it's especially tragic that a veteran of the war in Iraq died in such a way.

She also wants the public to know, however, that Danny Johnson is a good man, too. He grew up with the Yonces' daughters, and she said he is not a mean-spirited person.

"He would not maliciously hurt anybody," she said. "It was an accident."

Johnson surrendered at the Aiken County Detention Center on Tuesday after a warrant was issued for his arrest on a charge of reckless homicide.

Diane Yonce said the Johnson family has not publicly commented on the wreck because they don't want to make it harder on the Burke family.

Since the wreck, The Augusta Chronicle has talked with bicyclists who were on the ride with Burke about what occurred.

The newspaper published stories on motorists who deliberately "buzzed" bicycles, and interviewed a Beech Island resident who regularly shares the road with cyclists.

On augustachronicle.com, readers expressed frustration with bicyclists who hog the road and cyclists complained about indifferent motorists who nearly run them over.

John Yonce said he would welcome a town hall meeting of some sort at which people on both sides could air their differences. It's time to stop hiding behind the anonymity of the Internet, he said.

"Maybe we should regroup and talk face to face," he said.

Comments (57) Add comment
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athome
95
Points
athome 02/12/11 - 02:14 am
0
0
I couldn't agree with the

I couldn't agree with the Yonces more. Having known him since he was a child, I know Danny that is a good man. He has devoted his adult life to public service and helping others. I will NEVER believe that he intentionally "buzzed" these bicycle riders or wanted to do them harm. The media has made him out to some sort of deranged person who did this on purpose; however, that just isn't true. My heart goes out to BOTH the Burke family and the Johnson family. I truely believe this was a horrible ACCIDENT and that no amount of punishment will change the outcome for the Burkes.

agustinian
733
Points
agustinian 02/12/11 - 08:18 am
0
0
"No amount of punishment will

"No amount of punishment will change the outcome for the . . ." That can be said about any traffic accident or crime. We punish people in order to deter others from committing the same offense. The notoriety of this case plus the prosecution of the driver will cause other drivers to proceed more cautiously when approaching bicyclers. And who knows, it may save others from the fate of Dr. Burke and Mr. Johnson.

Carleton Duvall
6308
Points
Carleton Duvall 02/12/11 - 08:32 am
0
0
I question whether criminal

I question whether criminal charges are in order as a result of this accident.It seems to me that it was a terrible accident but not as a result of criminal intent. Negligence, absolutely. This should be dealt with in civil court, not criminal court. There has been a lot of suffering by both families.It is one of the saddest events that I have heard of in a long time.
God bless everyone involved.

peonynut
2
Points
peonynut 02/12/11 - 08:42 am
0
0
Why was it necessary to give

Why was it necessary to give Yonce's age? What difference did that make to the story?

Fiat_Lux
16791
Points
Fiat_Lux 02/12/11 - 09:25 am
0
0
Welcome back Scoobydo.

Welcome back Scoobydo. Sometimes negligence is criminal. Even if this were simply an accident, it was Mr. Johnson's distraction and negligence toward the other people sharing the road that caused it to occur. I've not read anywhere that these cyclists swerved out in front of him or did anything else that placed them in his path in such a way that he could not avoid hitting them.

And that, simply, is the crux of the matter. Mr. Johnson caused Matt Burke's death. The DA and then a jury will rule on his intent or lack thereof, and that will determine his punishment.

Taking someone's life solely because of your own actions or negligence costs you something, even if you didn't intend to do it.

WW1949
19
Points
WW1949 02/12/11 - 09:03 am
0
0
Peonynut. Age establishes the

Peonynut. Age establishes the fact that Mr. Yonce has known Mr. Johnson and his family for along time. Athome and Scobby I tend to agree with you that it was a terrible accident. Sand Bar Ferry is a fassssssst road, just look at the picture of the truck, and the secondary roads are narrow. Traffic going and returning from work from SRP and Kimberly Clark is congested and fast. I can see how he could get distracted.

maddog
27
Points
maddog 02/12/11 - 09:24 am
0
0
The negligence can go both

The negligence can go both ways. I have seen a lot of negligence on the part of the bikers many times.

freespeach
4
Points
freespeach 02/12/11 - 09:26 am
0
0
This is one of the most
Unpublished

This is one of the most insensitive signs I have ever seen. A cyclist has been killed. His wife has lost her husband and his 11 month old daughter has lost her father. He lost his life through no fault of his own. Yet the sign says No Cyclists. Was that the mindset of the driver when he slammed into the group of cyclists? If it wasn't, then why post this sign?
This was the result of careless driving. Post a sign saying No Careless Drivers. That would be more appropriate.

Fiat_Lux
16791
Points
Fiat_Lux 02/12/11 - 09:29 am
0
0
Maybe so, Maddog, but there

Maybe so, Maddog, but there was no negligence by the cyclists that day. Those cyclists didn't cause Burke's death. That's like blaming the victim of a drive-by shooting for making themselves available to be shot.

Austin Rhodes
3070
Points
Austin Rhodes 02/12/11 - 09:43 am
0
0
Insensitivity is one thing,

Insensitivity is one thing, putting a sign like that up in response to the death of a bicyclist who was in 100% compliance with the law when he was struck, is over the line. It is so far over the line that I am finding it difficult to describe what my response to such would be if Burke were a friend or relative.

A punch in the mouth, while illegal and highly ill advised, sounds about right.

Austin Rhodes
3070
Points
Austin Rhodes 02/12/11 - 09:47 am
0
0
...and that sign says

...and that sign says "Cyclist", it might as well be Matt Burke's face with a line drawn through it.

I guess since the guy realized it was such a ridiculously outlandish sign, and took it down...he can be forgiven...but just damn.

hidingoutagain
0
Points
hidingoutagain 02/12/11 - 09:52 am
0
0
Did he leave the scene after

Did he leave the scene after the hit the cyclist?

Wade Teston
2
Points
Wade Teston 02/12/11 - 09:56 am
0
0
A "bike lane" on any highway

A "bike lane" on any highway is something I have trouble believing educated people would think is a good idea. Bike lane or not, how many deaths will it take before we all figure out highway traffic and bicycles will never mix.

WW1949
19
Points
WW1949 02/12/11 - 10:04 am
0
0
If I were a bike rider I

If I were a bike rider I would take my bike out into the country and then start to ride on seldom traveled roads. Not on major highways. I know they have a right to ride and I support that but a highway is a highway and traffic moves fast. I am glad the man took the sign down because that was insensitive.

maddog
27
Points
maddog 02/12/11 - 10:07 am
0
0
I can agree that the sign was

I can agree that the sign was in poor taste. As to who was negligent in this case, I don't know because I didn't witness it. I doubt many of those making comments here did. I have witnessed many near accidents because of these cyclists. When you are on a very busy interstate highway doing 45 mph, you're within the law. You're also more likely to cause a fatal accident than the driver doing 80 mph.

Gpoulter
0
Points
Gpoulter 02/12/11 - 11:59 am
0
0
I am visiting Augusta for the

I am visiting Augusta for the second time this year. The first was to visit Matt in the ICU. Today I will be honored as one of his pallbearers. This sign is offensive and disgusting. I have never met Mr. Johnson or his friends. I did not know what kind of people they are, until now.

hdrider
0
Points
hdrider 02/12/11 - 10:16 am
0
0
It is a shame how the media

It is a shame how the media made Johnson appear to have intentionally done this on purpose. I even recall an Augusta Chronicle Staff member posting a comment on here which insinuated that Johnson "buzzed" them on purpose. It was stated in a typical round about way in which he didn't name Johnson or attach it to this particular incident, but it doesn't take much intelligence to know what he was saying and who it was about. It really lacks the professionalism you'd expect. When representing your employer you shouldn't inject your personal opinions.

dichotomy
39141
Points
dichotomy 02/12/11 - 10:17 am
0
0
This incident was a terrible

This incident was a terrible tragedy for the Burke family and I am sure for the Johnson family too. People on both sides of the issue of bike riding on public roads have their suspicions about what caused this incident but I am not sure we will ever know for absolute certain. I do suspect that much of the current discussion about fault and punishment is spurred by age, prominence and personality of those involved. If this had been a little gray haired lady who hit a homeless guy who was riding a bicycle down the road I doubt if there would be the same outcry for a public lynching. Maybe we should all butt out and let the courts handle this. Whatever punishment folks are clamoring for in this case, just remember, the next time the "perp" might be your grandma. And there will always be a next time as long as bicycles and automobiles mix on the same roads.

daviddunagan
343
Points
daviddunagan 02/12/11 - 10:22 am
0
0
The funeral is today. This

The funeral is today. This article and photo should have waited. Family and friends and in town. How do you think they felt when they saw this this morning? David Dunagan

maddog
27
Points
maddog 02/12/11 - 10:25 am
0
0
I wonder how many people

I wonder how many people commenting on this have actually ever been on Beech Island Avenue.

freespeach
4
Points
freespeach 02/12/11 - 10:33 am
0
0
Maddog, I have driven on this
Unpublished

Maddog, I have driven on this road many, many times. I have driven by cyclists many times. I'm a responsible driver and have never hit anyone. I have never found sharing the road with cyclists to be a problem. What is the point of your question?

Real Justice
5
Points
Real Justice 02/12/11 - 10:51 am
0
0
I have read several comments

I have read several comments posted from those that apparently live in or around the site of the crash. They all say the same thing, they felt the cyclists had worn out their welcome by continously riding the same route. I doubt there were as many infractions by the cyclists as suggested. In that I have participated in a few of the rides in Beech Island I will say that we probably could have done better. Mistakes are generally made by beginners but this group however represented the advanced riders and they knew by their experience the potential for harm from motorists. They would surely have excercised extreme caution. It has been suggested that Mr. Johnson was prominent in the area. Do you see the possibility that he may have elected himself as the person to send a message to the cyclists to stay out. I personally feel he had contemplated how he would deliver the message and on this day the opportunity presented it's self. I feel he decided to throw a scare at the cyclists and intended to buzz them. There is a natural tendency to drive in the direction that your eyes are looking, ask any pilot this. There is actually a technical name for it though it escapes me. No one can say why Mr. Johnson did not veer away at the last moment, maybe he got caught up in it or simply lost his focus. I will assure you of one thing however, he was aware of the position of the cyclists. His explanation of dropping something and reaching for does not wash. The truth will surely come forward during the lagal proceedings.

maddog
27
Points
maddog 02/12/11 - 10:52 am
0
0
At the time of this accident,

At the time of this accident, it had to be near dark. On Beech Island Avenue, there are several places where it would have been hard to see the cyclists until you were right up on them.

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 02/12/11 - 11:29 am
0
0
I'm with Austin on this.. I'm

I'm with Austin on this.. I'm having a hard time finding words that can be printed online to describe my disgust over this act. IT is certainly extremely tacky and hideously offensive to say the least.. especially considering today is when they are laying Mr Burke to rest.

seenitB4
103485
Points
seenitB4 02/12/11 - 11:31 am
0
0
skip...The AC prints the

skip...The AC prints the news...good & bad. If they didn't print, some would come on here & say they were bias ....kinda a no win situation.

Marshall Brown
0
Points
Marshall Brown 02/12/11 - 11:55 am
0
0
I believe some of the people

I believe some of the people that are defending Dan Johnson, forget that there were 15 cyclist, and he did not see them. 15 bikes, at around 5' in length, that would be around 75 feet, know that's saying they are tire to tire.How do you not see that? His defence is weak.

maddog
27
Points
maddog 02/12/11 - 12:40 pm
0
0
Most of the cyclists I have

Most of the cyclists I have encountered don't ride in single file, but side by side. I know it's against the law to do that with motorcycles, but it may not be with bicycles.

AutumnLeaves
10970
Points
AutumnLeaves 02/12/11 - 12:50 pm
0
0
Marshall, his defense might

Marshall, his defense might not be weak. I was on Doug Barnard parkway heading toward the airport not far from the part under construction and driving toward a wooded section (tall trees) on my left across the highway. It was a very sunny day and yet, until the large group of bicyclists coming from the opposite direction (going the same direction of traffic in their lane) came out from the shade from that wooded section, I was shocked that I had not seen any of them at all until then. Accidents happen. They were for all practical purposes temporarily invisible. There should at least be bike lanes if bicyclists are going to be using the roads. Neither should they be riding four and five abreast unless the road has been closed to vehicular traffic. I would think it foolish and dangerous to be any more than 2 abreast and wisest would be single file along the right side of the right hand lane. Personally, I would never ride a bicycle along a roadway with drivers. There are too many impaired drivers: sleep-deprived, drunk, drugged, talking on their phones (hands-free or otherwise, that is still distracted driving), smoking, eating, putting on makeup, etc.. It just seems foolish to me to take the risk of being vulnerable to a wavering SUV, Humvee or Semi-trailer truck.

KaolinKid
0
Points
KaolinKid 02/12/11 - 12:57 pm
0
0
Danny Johnson, while

Danny Johnson, while intentional or not, took the life of a father, son and husband. And his defense? "It was an accident." "I didn't see him." I find it hard to believe that, if he wasn't 'buzzing' the cyclists, that he didn't see a group of 15 bikes on the road. That means he must not have been paying attention. Or would he have us believe that his vehicle did it all by its self? Sounds like someone who isn't man enough to take responsiblilty for what he's done. No matter whatever good he may have done in in life, as claimed by his friends, it was wiped out in a matter of seconds when his obvious negligence took an innocent life.

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 02/12/11 - 01:27 pm
0
0
You people are aware that

You people are aware that this incident did not occur on Doug Barnard Parkway, it did not occur on Gordon Hwy, or US 1 or Bobby JOnes or I-20. Beech Island Ave is a 2 lane country road. The road is not conducive for any vehicle operating at high speeds anyway.. and this could just as easily been a pedestrian this guy hit. Non motorized vehicles (below a speed capacity of 40 mph)cyclists, and pedestrians are not permitted on high speed limited access highways such as I20, Bobby JOnes, or Riverwatch. Beech Island Ave is in not anything like those aforementioned roads.. it is not even a major highway. If a cyclist is not supposed to use this type of road then they pretty limited to cycling in subdivisions.. I guess that rules out any cross country cycling in the CSRA? When are operating a heavy motor vehicle, it is your responsibility to keep your eye on the road at all times and maintrain a safe speed for the road and conditions. If you incapable of doing this then do not drive, period.

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