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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.

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maddog
27
Points
maddog 02/12/11 - 01:51 pm
0
0
Beech Island Avenue is not a

Beech Island Avenue is not a good place to be bicycling when it's near dark. Emerydan, you must be an exceptional driver to know you would have avoided this accident. Maybe you and the cyclists should be the only ones allowed on the roads, since everybody else is not responsible enough to prevent any accident. I'll be sure to turn in my license first thing Monday morning.

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 02/12/11 - 02:23 pm
0
0
Hitting a dog or deer that

Hitting a dog or deer that darts out from no where across a dark road.. you can call that an unavoidable accident.. HItting 5 cyclists in a group of 15.. all wearing refelctive gear.. that's not an accident.

hdrider
0
Points
hdrider 02/12/11 - 02:28 pm
0
0
KaolinKid, cars have been

KaolinKid, cars have been killing motorcyclists for years and the excuse, "I didn't see him, " has always been acceptable.

ABCDEFG
0
Points
ABCDEFG 02/12/11 - 02:29 pm
0
0
Maddog it was not near dark,

Maddog it was not near dark, I cycled the road at the same time the day before. Noone will ever know what really happened in johnsons mind unless he has a moment of truth. Regardless, he was speeding and not looking at the road. That spells a minimum of negligent homicide; all the cyclist were obeying the laws and had reflectors and lights. It is legal to ride two abreast.

Ithat stretch of beech island blvd is the safest in the area. However it is the point where I have had most incidents. Have you noticed where matt was hit all the driveways past the dollar general end and there is a big hay field w no auto entry points for over a mile. Plus u
Can see all the way to the top of the straight hill.

It's because at this great passing point if a driver gets slowed for a few seconds for any reason. That's when he gets irritated and wants to show the cyclist whose boss. My gut tells me Johnson did same. It's happened to me by other residents on that road; I can point out there houses if u like.

In addition, the only way on that flat stretch Johnson didn't see one of 15 cyclists is if he wasn't looking at the road for 20-30 seconds. The felony charge is the correct one

Name Not Important
0
Points
Name Not Important 02/12/11 - 02:57 pm
0
0
For the most part, bikers in

For the most part, bikers in the Augusta area are pretty knowledgeable and courteous. Still there are certain areas where it just is not a good idea to ride. Hwy 278 between Beech Island and New Ellenton is a dangerous road no matter what type of vehicle you are using. There have been numerous fatalities in AUTOS much less bikes. Bikers have rights like everyone else, but sometimes you have to use a little common sense as well. I've been riding motorcycles in the North Ga mountains and come around a curve and run up on 15 bikes spread all the way across the road on numerous occasions and they refused to move over to the side. And yes, they get hit up there sometimes too. Accidents happen no matter where you live...

I ride my bike but I usually do it through the back roads in my neighborhood where there is the least amount of traffic. I don't get why some cyclists think they need to ride down the middle of the busiest roads. I've been stuck behind cyclists going 10 mph on Deans Bridge, Washington Rd, Walton Way, etc...

I mean no offense AT ALL but when you're riding a bike on road where the speed limit is anywhere from 45-55mph you're taking your life into your own hands. I've even seen idiots riding down the middle of Hwy 56 at NIGHT with no reflectors or anything on them. I know many cyclists do follow the rules and wear the right reflective gear and whatnot. But some of them I've seen are just down right stupid as well. I'm not saying Mr. Burke was at all. I'm just making an observation. That is all.

There have been numerous times that I have seen someone cycling on a busy road and wonder to myself "why, out of all places would someone ride a bike HERE". I believe that this was an accident, and it should be a lesson to those who do cycle to respect a thousand pound automobile traveling on highly traveled roads and likewise car drivers should respect the bike riders as well.

maddog
27
Points
maddog 02/12/11 - 02:58 pm
0
0
I didn't know what part of

I didn't know what part of Beech Island Ave it happened at. I wouldn't call that stretch dangerous. I understood that it happened around 5:30 pm in October. It's usually close to dark at that time in that month. But I will agree that he should have seen them on that part of that road. Go farther toward Pine Log and there's a lot of dangerous places for a cyclist.

Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 02/12/11 - 03:11 pm
0
0
This person deserves no more

This person deserves no more punishment than the young man who hit the pedestrian in the roadway in Columbia County.

It is far past time to change our laws - roadways should be for VEHICLES only. Bicyclists and Pedestrians need to stick to sidewalks, bike paths, parks and other non-mororized vehicle areas.

This is a tragic accident and it is ashame anyone was injured or died but it will continue to occur and BOTH lives are ruined any way you look at it.

Change our laws now.

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 02/12/11 - 03:12 pm
0
0
Name not Important.. where

Name not Important.. where did it say that these cyclists were riding on US 278? This is 2 lane Beech Island Ave.. not 278.. the road is perfectly conducive for cross country cycling.. take a drive on it and see for yourself.. and this happened in broad daylight on a mostly clear day.

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 02/12/11 - 03:15 pm
0
0
I suppose we should tell the

I suppose we should tell the folks with Tour de Georgia and Iron Man not to schedule any cycling events in the CSRA from here on out.

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 02/12/11 - 03:16 pm
0
0
No.. asitis.. one life is

No.. asitis.. one life is gone and one is ruined, because someone didn't pay attention to the road.

ABCDEFG
0
Points
ABCDEFG 02/12/11 - 03:27 pm
0
0
For those that use the term

For those that use the term just an accident, you need to read the legal definition:

http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/_/dict.aspx?word=accident

curly123053
5378
Points
curly123053 02/12/11 - 04:29 pm
0
0
With all the debate about who

With all the debate about who is at fault let me set one fact straight. It does not matter what you are driving, but when you hit anybody from behind you are at fault period! It's up to that driver to be totally aware of what is up in front of him and to take the necessary precautions to avoid an accident. If the driver fails to be aware of what is up in front of him or her they are negligent if they hit the objects from behind. I do not ride a bike and have never had a problem with them, but that sign in Mr. Yonce's yard was sadistic and sick. I would have to think the individual responsible must be suffering from some type of senile dementia to put up such a sign. That sign did not help enything other than to hurt those involved in this accident. I don't even know why the AC saw fit to put a pic of that sign in the paper knowing it would incite people to anger.

godogs
0
Points
godogs 02/12/11 - 05:23 pm
0
0
First of all Mr. Yonce meant

First of all Mr. Yonce meant no dissrespect to any of the families. There was no ill intent by him. Cyclist ride all over Beech Island. Yes they do have a right but sometimes it is just not safe. They do ride side by side on 278, quite often. This is a horribly unsafe road. I live off 278 and went up towards New Ellenton the other day and counted 6 crosses within a three mile stretch. Some days when I pull out of my neighborhood I can barely see down the road because of the sun. People drive way too fast and it surely isn't safe for cyclist. The road on Beech Island Avenue has one stright part on it and the rest is nothing but dangerous curves with no margins on the side. This is a very dangerous road. I rode by the spot actually today on my way home where this accident happened. In October at around 5:00 the way the trees are and the sun sets it could have been hard to see and we all are distracted at times. Mr. Johnson is a good man and comes from a very responsible Christian family. He himself would never intentionally hurt anyone. With saying all of this nothing changes the outcome for the Burke family. There is nothing sadder than losing a loved one like this and my heart aches for them. I don't think anyone is trying to change the fact that this is horrible for everyone concerned. I just think what we who know Mr. Johnson are saying is that accidents do happen and we all believe this was just that. It won't bring Mr. Burke's life back and doesn't excuse Mr. Johnson irresponsibility but he is not a murderer. He is a human being who made a horrible mistake. I find it so amazing how so many people can be so judgemental about others they know nothing about. One day it may be you or your children, and don't say your kids won't make mistakes because they will and you surely wouldn't want them torn apart in the media by such hatred. Hopefully through all of this maybe drivers and cyclists alike will all respect each other a little more, if nothing more than to honor Mr. Burke and his life. And maybe try a little forgiveness.

ABCDEFG
0
Points
ABCDEFG 02/12/11 - 05:28 pm
0
0
Horrible sign, senseless

Horrible sign, senseless crime! Show some class and sensitivity Beech Island. Some respect was due such an honorable man.

chascush
0
Points
chascush 02/12/11 - 06:32 pm
0
0
ABCDEFG, ‘Maddog it was not

ABCDEFG, ‘Maddog it was not near dark, I cycled the road at the same time the day before.’
Just because it was light when you were there does not mean it was the next day. During cloudy conditions it gets darker much faster. I don’t have a side in this discussion but everyone should stick with the truth.

random1
0
Points
random1 02/12/11 - 07:50 pm
0
0
I don't think Mr. Yonce meant

I don't think Mr. Yonce meant any ill-will with his sign. Just possibly as a reminder to cyclists to say that Sandbar Ferry is definitely NOT the safest road to be cycling on. I have been on Beech Island Avenue many times, not sure why Danny couldn't have gone around the cyclists. Maybe Danny has redeemed himself as an adult, but does no one remember all of the trouble, even with the law he would get into even in middle school? No one seen his recent posts on fb, taking pictures of women's breast and putting them on fb? And constantly talking about partying? Selective memory, I guess.... just like me.

godogs
0
Points
godogs 02/12/11 - 08:33 pm
0
0
I guess random1 has never

I guess random1 has never made mistakes in his past. I sure hope the mistakes in your past which I am sure you weren't perfect doesn't follow you all your days and make people judge who you are today. Just saying!

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 02/12/11 - 08:54 pm
0
0
random1... Hey maybe Danny

random1... Hey maybe Danny and Scott Dean can share a jail cell.. sound like two peas in a pod

the_source
0
Points
the_source 02/12/11 - 10:43 pm
0
0
godogs said "I sure hope the

godogs said "I sure hope the mistakes in your past which I am sure you weren't perfect doesn't follow you all your days and make people judge who you are today."

I don't know how Johnson behaved growing up but past behavior is an indication of how that person may behave in the future. There is a reason companies look at your past when you apply for a job. There is a reason why banks and security companies won't hire you if you've ever been convicted of a felony.

If a person was a troublemaker while growing up, unless there is a major change in that person's life, there is a pretty good chance that this kind of behavior will stay with that person, albeit to a more subtle degree. This is just human nature and basic behavioral science.

DoggieMom
352
Points
DoggieMom 02/13/11 - 02:15 am
0
0
This is such a tragedy.

This is such a tragedy. However, cyclists legally have the right to share the road, and coming from behind, you are required to slow down behind them until it is clear to pass.
The fact that 5 bikes were hit shows this was not just a senseless accident. If the driver had been driving carefully, he would have braked and stopped before he hit the whole group.
If we put a woman in jail without bail for hitting a rude child, why are we not paying more attention to a man who hit 5 bicyclists, and killed one of them? The double standards are baffling.
The bottom line, Mr. Johnson killed a man, which at least should be the charge of manslaughter. The fact that he hit 5 bike, shows he was speeding and not paying attention. You are not to look down if you are driving, and for all we know, he was texting or talking on a cell. Only by pulling up his cell phone records can that be checked on.

My condolances to Dr. Burke's wife and family. It's very sad when a young child loses a parent, and she will pay the price the rest of her life.
Have some consideration, people. Take down rude signs.

omnomnom
3964
Points
omnomnom 02/13/11 - 04:43 am
0
0
i saw the sign when heading

i saw the sign when heading out there to my sisters. i was floored!!! was half tempted to slam on brakes and rip it out of the ground!

WayUpNorthInAlaska
0
Points
WayUpNorthInAlaska 02/13/11 - 05:11 am
0
0
I've been following this case

I've been following this case from Alaska, and my condolences to the family. Drivers and cyclists must learn how to share the road, for everyone's safety and so nobody else has to go through this same heartbreak. That is why more states need to adopt "vulnerable user" laws, which add stiffer penalties for wrecks involving a car/truck and pedestrians, cyclists, wheelchair users and others who don't have a protective steel shell around them. Oregon, New York and Delaware already have vulnerable user laws in place, while states such as Washington and California have been debating them in their legislatures. For more info, http://akpedbikealliance.wordpress.com/2010/08/30/%E2%80%A2-new-york-and.... Again, my condolences to the family. As a bicycle commuter, I don't want to see anybody hurt or killed like this. As a driver, I don't want to have to live with the guilt of hurting or killing a vulnerable user, so I do my best to watch out for them on the roads.

cyclingman1
0
Points
cyclingman1 02/13/11 - 05:33 am
0
0
Every bit of evidence, if not

Every bit of evidence, if not just plain common sense, indicates that the senseless death of Mr. Burke was no "accident." It does appear that the driver's rage, the desire to send a threatening message, got out of control. Now he is contrite. We see it all the time. An angry person has to hurt someone before they are really noticed and dealt with. There are so many lessons to be learned by the angry people in this world from this incident. I dare say none of them will take the opportunity. RIP, Mr. Burke, a patriot and exemplary individual.

InChristLove
22485
Points
InChristLove 02/13/11 - 08:42 am
0
0
So KaolinKid, once you do one

So KaolinKid, once you do one neglectful thing it wipes out all the good you've done....pretty harsh.

I don't know if Mr. Johnson did this intentionally or not but what disturbs me is the slant this case has taken. Before this accident Mr. Burke was only known among his family and friends. Since the accident he has been elevated to the highest notoriety, praised in the paper continuously, made into a major superstar. That being said, I'm sure Mr. Burke was a wonderful man, a great husband and son, I thank him for his military service, and I'm sure he was a fantastic doctor. I'm sorry for his families lost. But on the other side, Mr. Johnson has been made out to be this loose cannon, redneck, hoodlum who hates all cyclist, and this madman on the road. That being said, maybe he is. Maybe he's not, maybe he's just your average country citizen who drives a truck and talks southern which in most peoples minds means your dumb.

This character building and character assassination through the media with all these articles about how wonderful the Dr was and how horrible and angry the other party is, bothers me. How in the world will Mr. Johnson ever get a fair trial in this. Are they going to pick 6 individuals from the prominent side of town and 6 individuals from the hick town of Beech Island because this is what it appears to me to have become. The city mouse versus the country mouse.

InChristLove
22485
Points
InChristLove 02/13/11 - 08:45 am
0
0
cyclingman1, have you seen

cyclingman1, have you seen all of the evidence, have you heard all the testimony? Even if Mr. Johnson had rage towards cyclist, let this be brought out in a court of law and follow through the judicial process.

kenworth
0
Points
kenworth 02/13/11 - 10:41 am
0
0
although i feel badly for

although i feel badly for loss of life in this accident what was the real cause? the bikes on the road? no. the traffic on the road? no. this happened back in oct of last year. tell me has the city made any arrangements to install a bike lane to any of its roads to stop this from happening again? i travel all over the country and most of the major cities have bike lanes. in augusta we hardly even have side walks. when are the residents of augusta going to elect some city officails the will actually help the residents instead of wanting to build a new baseball stadium.

happychimer
19537
Points
happychimer 02/13/11 - 07:03 pm
0
0
If while driving, a vehicle

If while driving, a vehicle cuts in front of you too close, and you hit them in the back, you are not at fault.That almost happened to us today. We were on a 4 lane road, and a vehicle cut in front of us too soon. They almost got hit.

chascush
0
Points
chascush 02/13/11 - 07:36 pm
0
0
Wayupnorth, ‘I've been

Wayupnorth, ‘I've been following this case from Alaska’
No wonder you are up early. What part of Alaska are you in? How many hrs of darkness are you having?

joycoach
0
Points
joycoach 02/13/11 - 07:57 pm
0
0
To athome - when you say that

To athome - when you say that Danny has devoted his adult life to public service and helping others, I just had to let you know that I am one of the people that he took hundreds of dollars from for some bogus work that I had to have a professional come fix. The professional told me that the part that Danny charged me $800 for cost around $300. As a single mother of 5, Danny really "helped me out", never acknowledging what he did, and we haven't spoken since.

Newsreader
11
Points
Newsreader 02/14/11 - 12:05 am
0
0
The facts of the case have

The facts of the case have nothing to do with the insensitivity of the man that put that moronic sign in his yard. I too am surprised that the AC thought it was newsworth and placed a picture of it in the paper when the family and other guest are in town to pay respects.
The law allows for people powered vehicles on roadways that do restict them by posted signs. Bicycles when on the roadway, are a vehicle, with the same rights as any other vehicle. They are required to follow all rules of the road that other vehicles are required to abide by, with the exception (in South Carolina) that they are allowed to ride two abreast. However, they are entitled to the entire lane, not the shoulder or just 18 inches of pavement. Other vehicles should not occupy any portion of the lane which the bicycle occupies. Additional other vehicles should not "tailgate" nor "cut in close to the front" of the bicycles. Most of the drivers in Aiken County are not aware of the rights of bicycles traveling on the roadway. Reading the SC code of laws, Title 56 Chapter 5, especially could help those that want to see less bicycles on the roadways.
NOTHING THAT IS SAID OR DONE NOW WILL CHANGE THE FACT THE A SMALL GIRL WILL GROW UP WITH OUT HER FATHER. While all reports are that he was a wonderful person, she will only know what she reads or is told. I know how it is to grow up without a father, as I lost mine to voilence before my first birthday as well. Prayers and heartfelt sympathy to this little angel. I wish that she could be spared from the many questions, wishes, and even anger that she will experience throughout her life. Nothing will change that a young father is gone, and his child will suffer due to that loss. Prayers and well wishes for the rest of Dr. Burke's family and loved ones.
However, the charges against Mr. Johnson are the proper charges, based on what has been presented in the media regarding this incident. Let a jury decide the guilt or innocence. Intent is not addressed in this charge. It simply requires that when the death of a person ensues within three years as a proximate result of injury received by the driving of a vehicle in reckless disregard of the safety of others, the person operating the vehicle is guilty of reckless homicide. Does this incident fit this definition? No driving under the influence, no intent, no leaving the scene, what some would call a "simple accident". Reckless disregard for the safety of others? What else can you say about an incident where a vehicle strikes 5 bicycles from behind, while they were legally occupying the roadway? Sorry that Mr. Johnson's family has to endure the glare of the media, but it is because of Mr. Johnson's actions, not those of any of the bicyclist. Lets all try to realistically look at this, and not cloud it with emotional pleas regarding the character of the men involved. It really would not matter if were grandmother or a crackhead, that was struck, nor if grandmother or a sober crackhead driving. The law has no mention of either. The law is how the jury will decide. The rest us of can only hide behind the keyboard and hope we make a difference.

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