Distracted driving seems to have led to a serious car accident on the Mid-Bay Bridge Thursday evening. The wreck resulted in serious injuries to a 71-year-old bicyclist from Niceville. The driver now faces hit and run and other traffic charges.
The 30-year-old Destin man was heading southbound on State Road 293 around 5:30 p.m. on September 23, crossing the Mid-Bay Bridge. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, he dropped a lit cigarette and bent down to retrieve it.
While the man was bending over for the cigarette, police say, he unknowingly drifted onto the shoulder of the bridge where the bicyclist was riding. The passenger-side mirror of his 1997 GMC Sierra pickup truck struck the 71-year-old biker, knocking him off his bicycle.
After the accident, witnesses say, the driver stopped and got out of his truck and spoke briefly to another driver who had stopped. He then left the scene.
Truck-Bicycle Accident Leaves Biker With Head Injuries, ‘In Pretty Bad Shape’
The senior bicyclist was found on the north side of the bridge after the bike-truck accident. According to North Bay Fire Department spokesperson Butch Parker, he appeared to have a head injury and a laceration to his abdomen.
“He appeared to be in pretty bad shape,” Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Michele Nicholson told reporters.
He was airlifted to Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, where he was listed in serious condition on Thursday night. Traffic in both directions on the bridge had to be blocked while the medical helicopter landed to rescue the bicyclist and was not restored until 8:30 p.m.
Witnesses were able to provide Okaloosa County Sheriff’s deputies and the FHP with detailed descriptions of the pickup truck. The deputies located the vehicle and the FHP were able to match damage on the GMC Sierra with evidence from the bicycle accident.
When troopers contacted the registered owner of the Sierra, he admitted he had left the scene of the accident but said he didn’t know he had hit anything.
The FHP investigation is ongoing, but the driver has been charged with leaving the scene of a traffic accident with injuries and with failing to drive in a single lane.
“‘IN PRETTY BAD SHAPE’: Destin man charged in Mid-Bay Bridge hit and run” (The Destin Log, September 23, 2010)