Preface: Fifteen bicyclists out on a group ride on a flat, straight, long 45mph section of 2-lane rural highway with low traffic volume, no other vehicles in vicinity at time of collision, ~6pm but still daylight, plenty of time for a motorist to see a line of cyclists directly in front before intercept. Cyclists were helmeted with taillights.
Motorist apparently tried to sneak up on group, then floored it so his exhaust would scare bicyclists, based on cyclists' reports of sudden, loud, roaring exhaust immediately before collision. Motorist strikes 5 of the 15 cyclists. One cyclist received serious head injury, then lingered in coma for months before death.
Motorist claimed momentary distraction. County eventually charges reckless homicide after death and public pressure from bicyclists.
A Beech Island man accused of fatally injuring an Eisenhower hospital surgeon while he was cycling will be sentenced today after pleading guilty Monday to involuntary manslaughter. Daniel Johnson had faced a charge of reckless homicide in the death of Matthew Burke.
Daniel Johnson was to be tried on a charge of reckless homicide in connection with the Oct. 1, 2010, wreck that killed Maj. Matthew Burke, 38, an orthopedic surgeon at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center, who died in February from his injuries. Four other cyclists were injured.
The arrest warrant says that the group of about 15 cyclists was “legally in the roadway” and that Johnson’s driving was “grossly negligent which caused the death of Mr. Matthew Burke.”
Johnson changed his mind a couple times during Monday’s hearing. He initially agreed to a guilty plea, then asked for a jury trial but later returned to the plea deal.
The plea gives Johnson, a former employee of Aiken County Emergency Management, 90 days in jail, five years probation and revocation of his driver’s license.
Sentencing was delayed to give the Burke family, including Burke’s widow, Bonnie Burke, a chance to speak.
Aiken County Judge Jack Early told Johnson that his attorney, Jim Huff, had gone to “extreme lengths” to come up with a solution that gives appropriate punishment while also taking into account Johnson’s lack of a criminal background.
The resolution does not include restitution or fines, but reserves the right for the Burke family to pursue civil action against Johnson or anyone else involved in the case.