Ended, but not over

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No amount of time in prison is enough for having taken an innocent life. Certainly not 90 days.

But Daniel Johnson’s guilty plea to involuntary manslaughter, and his three months in jail followed by five years’ probation, at least puts sutures to the open wound that the death of cyclist Matthew Burke has been.

Burke, an orthopedic surgeon at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Cen­ter and an avid bicyclist, was among several of 15 bicyclists riding in a group who were plowed into by Johnson’s SUV Oct. 1, 2010, on Beech Island Avenue in South Carolina. The group of veteran cyclists made a routine of riding there on Fridays, and were riding legally according to authorities.

As cruel as the wreck was, the aftermath was just as capricious, as Maj. Burke, 38, fought for his life until Feb. 6. The night of the crash, his wife Bonnie could hardly recognize him, telling us, “The only way I knew it was him was his hands, his strong, graceful hands.”

The same hands that had cared for others, and most likely would have done so for years. His death was not only a blow to his family and the cycling community, but to his fellow man.

Ninety days will flash in an instant. Maj. Burke will be gone forever.

At least Johnson’s swerving decision to plead guilty – first he would, then he wouldn’t, then he did – is the end of this first painful chapter.

Oddly and tragically enough, his death was followed Aug. 1 by a similar fatal vehicle-bike crash that took the life of another Eisenhower Army Medical Center doctor, Daniel L. Dickinson, 57, who was riding to work when he was hit near the intersection of Belair and Asbury roads in Richmond County.

If anything good can come out of these unbridled tragedies – and something good must come out of them – let it be that cycling in the Augusta area is made safer for those who follow these two men. Efforts have begun to make that happen, thank goodness. But plenty remains to be done.

Job 1 is for motorists – who have the size and weight advantage of their vehicles – to be ultra-careful at all times, particularly around bicyclists.

No one should want to trade places with Daniel Johnson. Not even for 90 days.

Comments (12) Add comment
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share the road
0
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share the road 10/18/11 - 11:52 pm
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I don't understand how they

I don't understand how they can call this an accident when he hit the cyclists at that speed, in daylight, on a straight stretch of road. I don't think Mr Johnson apologized to any of the victims except when trying to avoid going to trial this week. He would have faced much more jail time at a trial than serving 90 days only on the weekends. A very light sentence...How could someone not see 15 bikers in the daylight on a straight stretch of road? or not slow down and give them a little room on the road? the victims will not just be suffering on the weekends for a few months...

desertcat6
1140
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desertcat6 10/19/11 - 02:30 am
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0
Whitty, Couldn't find any

Whitty, Couldn't find any reports of other bicycle deaths in the Augusta area over the last two years. The fact that both of the recent bicycle related deaths in Augusta involved Army doctors who were advid cyclist make it a compelling story.

augusta citizen
10021
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augusta citizen 10/19/11 - 05:50 am
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Has there been any coverage

Has there been any coverage on charges in Dr. Dickinson's death? There was so much for Dr. Burkes, but I don't recall any in the other. My prayers to the families of Matthew Burke and Dan Dickinson.

agustinian
723
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agustinian 10/19/11 - 06:49 am
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Is it always about race?

Is it always about race? Really? When a young black man was killed in Augusta for his bicycle, weren't we all outraged. And weren't we all happy to see justice served. As long as you keep wallowing in race, it will always be about race and we will forever be held back by the tarpit of racial cynicism.

InChristLove
22485
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InChristLove 10/19/11 - 07:23 am
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Sharetheroad, your anger is

Sharetheroad, your anger is understandable but I believe another article stated Mr. Johnson did appologize to the Burke family. As for the other's injuried, I do not know.

"Johnson apologized to the Burke family for his actions, especially to Bonnie Burke, Matthew’s widow.

“Maybe my plea today will help repair damage I have caused,” he said"

I was not there so I do not know how this accident happened but it very easily can happen in daylight, on a straight stretch of road. One minute you're are driving along, and maybe he saw the bicylist ahead, but you take your eyes off the road to catch something falling from the dash, or to grab something on the seat and that distance between you and the bicyclist suddenly becomes closer than you think and by the time you realize, it's too late and you have hit someone.

Is Mr. Johson at fault, most definitely. When you get behind the wheel of a vehicle, you are responsbile (or suppose to be), but do I think he purposely struck Dr. Burke or the other bicyclist, No.

Vito45
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Vito45 10/19/11 - 08:07 am
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Whitty, as I said in your

Whitty, as I said in your same post on the other thread, it isn't about race, but economics/social status/connections/who gets behind the cause/etc.

If this had been a black doctor the publicity would have been the same. This scenario is repeated day in and day out with abductions, murders, etc.; folks low on the social totem pole don't get as much attention, period.

kmb413
533
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kmb413 10/19/11 - 08:43 am
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There are plenty of news

There are plenty of news stories we comment on every day about blacks being killed.

Willow Bailey
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Willow Bailey 10/19/11 - 09:15 am
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Vito is right. It isn't

Vito is right. It isn't about race, but it is definitely about how we as individuals identify with the person and assign value to their lives.

soyqbano
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soyqbano 10/19/11 - 01:38 pm
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What is the meaning of

What is the meaning of Justice in this Country of ours? When a man can get hit by a vehicle, lose his life and the accuser only gets to visit the jail on weekends. Are we still living in the past?
Matthew Burke was not only a Major in the U.S. Army, he was a Chief Surgeon, a Teacher, a Father, a Husband, a Friend to his patients and co-workers. He has served overseas in Foreign Wars to protect our freedom. It's a shame when a person that fought in Wars comes home, gets killed and nothing is done about it. How many years did
Mr. Daniel Johnson serve in any branch of the military? What rights do he has to take someone's life and get away with it?
Justice may not have been served in this world, but he will have to stand in front of our lord and explain his action.
My prayer goes out to the Burke family.

Willow Bailey
20605
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Willow Bailey 10/19/11 - 02:14 pm
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soyqbano, All of our prayers

soyqbano, All of our prayers go out to Dr. Burke's family, especially his beautiful wife, baby girl and parents.

I don't know Johnson, have no reason to defend him, am not excusing his lapse in attention, but definitely see no reason to believe that this was anything other than a terribly tragic accident.

As to standing in front of the Lord with our actions, it will be more like kneeling before Him, thanking Him for His gracious mercy, that for the grace of God, we would all face eternal death.

Good records and performance do not earn us a place with Christ. It is only through acceptance of His shed blood that we are saved. God loves Dr. Burke, just as He loves Daniel Johnson.

share the road
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share the road 10/19/11 - 07:58 pm
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InChristLove, as I stated

InChristLove, as I stated earlier, I don't believe he apologized to the family or felt remorse until he was faced with going to trial and facing more jail time. He opted to apologize to the widow at that point in hopes of a lighter sentence I'm sure. It worked. Just a few months of serving time on the weekends for taking another man's life? unbelievable.
As you say, if he saw the cyclists and then took his eyes off of the road for falling papers, he is still responsible for maintaining a safe following distance from anything traveling on the road in front of him. The cyclists that were hit believe it was a road rage incident and if it went to trial that may have been proven. Maybe a lie detector test would help?

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