A cyclist in San Francisco who allegedly posted to an online forum to lament the fact his helmet had broken in an incident in which he struck a pedestrian who later died of his injuries may face vehicular homicide charges. The same post suggested that the cyclist had ridden through a red traffic light, although the rider involved in the incident has since said, through his lawyer, that he complied with the law.
Sutchi Hui, aged 71, died on Monday 2 April at San Francisco General Hospital, four days after he had been struck by a bicycle ridden by Chris Bucchere at the junction of Castro Street and Market Street. Mr Sutchi had been crossing the intersection with his wife at the time of the incident.
A statement released last Friday through Mr Bucchere’s attorney, Ted Cassman, and quoted by the San Francisco Chronicle, said: "Chris is devastated by the accident last Thursday and by the tragic death of Sutchi Hui.
"Chris believes that he entered the intersection lawfully and that he did everything possible to avoid the accident. His heart goes out to Mr. Hui's wife and family for their loss."
Prior to Mr Hui’s death, there had been outrage after a post, subsequently removed, appeared in the Mission Cycling AM Riders Google Group on the same day as the incident took place, apparently authored by Mr Bucchere himself.
The post was made by a user named ‘Bucchere Chris’ from an account linked to Mr Bucchere’s email address and according to the San Francisco Chronicle, prosecutors are working on the assumption that it was made by Mr Bucchere himself, although that is an issue that does not appear to have been confirmed or denied in his attorney's subsequent statement.
The poster had described in detail his version of events leading up to the collision, saying that he was unable to stop as he approached the traffic lights, which had turned from green to yellow.
"I was already way too committed to stop," the poster wrote. "The light turned red as I was cruising through the middle of the intersection and then, almost instantly, the southern crosswalk on Market and Castro filled up with people coming from both directions... I couldn't see a line through the crowd and I couldn't stop, so I laid it down and just plowed through the crowded crosswalk in the least-populated place I could find."
The person making the post described how they were knocked unconscious then came round five minutes later to be told that a pedestrian – Mr Hui – had been taken to hospital.
"I remember seeing a RIVER of blood on the asphalt, but it wasn't mine," the post continued. "I really hope he ends up OK."
However, it was the closing remarks about the cycle helmet that attracted most criticism, with some claiming that it made light of the incident, although at the time it was made, Mr Hui was still alive.
Those remarks have been picked up by media outlets across the United States and beyond including the UK’s own Daily Mail.
According to the poster, the bike helmet "died in heroic fashion today as my head slammed into the tarmac. ... May she die knowing that because she committed the ultimate sacrifice, her rider can live on and ride on. Can I get an amen? Amen."
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that prosecutors have not yet made a decision on whether or not to bring charges against Mr Bucchere, which could include vehicular homicide. According to the newspaper, he has given police investigating the incident his full co-operation.
Last Friday, members of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition were at the corner of Market and Guerrero Streets to emphasise to cyclists the need to ride safely, with its director, Leah Shahum, commenting: “We do not condone reckless behaviour. This is not how we want to be perceived."
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.