Driver, cyclist killed in Va. when SUV crosses highway lanes

By Ashley Halsey III
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 22, 2010

A 31-year-old Manassas man lost control of his sport-utility vehicle in Fairfax County on Friday afternoon, crossing a median strip and six traffic lanes before leaving the road and fatally striking a 17-year-old male cyclist on a bike path, according to county police.

The driver also died when the vehicle continued to career and crashed into a tree, officials said. Another cyclist on the trail was hit but was apparently not seriously injured.

Neither the cyclist who police said was from Fairfax, nor the driver had been identified by name Friday night. Both died at the scene, and crews were cutting the 2001 Dodge Durango at 7 p.m. to remove the body.

The accident happened just after 4 p.m. at Lee Highway and Forum Drive, according to Officer Shelley Broderick, a police spokeswoman.

Mary Ann Jennings, the department's head spokeswoman, said the driver apparently veered across six lanes of Lee Highway before jumping the Forum Drive curb. After hitting the cyclists, the car hit a tree, she said.

"Until investigators really get into the car and see what's there, we won't know," she said. "Was it a medical condition, or what? We don't know yet."

The asphalt bike path intersects the corner of Lee Highway and Forum Drive, where a stoplight controls traffic, raising the possibility that the bike riders were waiting for the light to change when the accident occurred. The tree line is 20 to 30 feet from the intersection.

The 17-year-old was apparently an athlete at a county high school. A witness said a moment of silence was asked for him Friday night at a county high school baseball game.

Friday was the annual Bike to Work Day, making bicycle traffic throughout the region heavier than normal.

Traffic fatalities have dropped sharply in Fairfax in recent years, and records indicate that the cyclist's death might be the county's first in more than a year. The majority of the half-dozen cyclist deaths in the past five years have involved Latino immigrants riding to or from work in the dark.

"You want to be careful about stereotyping, but you have to look at the circumstances," said Fairfax Detective Scott Neville, who investigates traffic fatalities. "As much as you hate to say it, it's often a certain socioeconomic class."

Neville's case files include these fatalities:

Jose Baquedano, 21, dressed all in black, was riding home from a restaurant job at 11 p.m. on a November night in 2008 when a hit-and-run driver struck him on Route 7 in Leesburg. A Latino male who never was identified by name was killed onLee Chapel Road in June 2007 while riding a child-size bike at 1:46 a.m. where no shoulder existed. His bike had no lights, and he wore his shirt was dark gray. The driver, a minor with alcohol in his system, was charged with reckless driving.

Jose Maria Carrango Claros, 51, was in a crosswalk on Arlington Boulevard when struck before dawn in October 2006.

None of the three men was wearing a helmet.

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