NORTHAMPTON - A 23-year-old woman who had devoted her life to helping others after her parents died of AIDS when she was 9 was killed yesterday morning when she was struck by a truck as she rode her bike past Smith College.
Margaret "Meg" Alene Sanders, of 3 Hill Ave., Easthampton, who for the last two summers had participated in the Mass. Red Ribbon Ride to raise money for agencies that work with people with AIDS, was pronounced dead at the scene of the 9:08 a.m. accident on Elm Street.
Sanders was struck by a 26,000-pound armored truck owned by AT Security Systems and driven by Rafael Sevilla, 25, of 40 Oak Ridge St., Indian Orchard, who told police he did not see Sanders.
Sevilla, visibly distraught after the accident, was treated and released from Cooley Dickinson Hospital.
Sgt. Andrew Trushaw said police have not yet determined whether charges will be brought and are looking for anyone who might have witnessed the accident. Anyone with information should call police at (413) 587-1105 and ask for Trushaw or Officer Robert Powers, the lead investigator.
Although Sanders was wearing a helmet, she suffered severe head injuries, police said. She was traveling east on Elm Street in front of the Brown Fine Arts Center when the truck turned into a small lane into the college between the Center and College Hall, police said.
After the accident, Sevilla had to remain in the truck with his foot on the brake until authorities could place "chock blocks" behind the wheels to ensure the vehicle did not roll backward, police said. He was visibly shaking and crying, before being helped from the truck.
In an interview with The Republican earlier this year, Sanders said she loved cycling and didn't even own a car.
"I lost my parents to AIDS when I was 9. Combine that with my passion for cycling and I couldn't resist joining the (Mass. Red Ribbon) Ride," Sanders said.
Friends and colleagues of Sanders, who attended Hampshire College and worked part-time at Safe Passage, recalled her as a safe and motivated rider and volunteer.
"She was an absolute inspiration. I know she rode for her parents. She was a very good rider. That's why I'm so completely shocked," said Monica A. Rose, communications director for Tapestry Health who rode with Sanders the last two years.
Andy Genser, a spokeswoman for the Red Ribbon Ride, said her organization is "devastated" to hear of Sanders' death.
"Meg was a shining light and epitomized what we are trying to do with our bike ride. She worked hard to get others to ride and spread the word. She's an amazing young woman who really tried to make the world a better place," Genser said.