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Community weighs in on fatal bike crash

WTSP St. Petersburg: Community weighs in on fatal bike crash

Apr 16, 2012


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Some residents are up in arms after St. Petersburg police say a man slammed into a woman riding her bicycle. Detectives say the driver had his 3-year-old daughter in the car when it happened.

The crash happened along 1st Avenue South near the corner of 52nd Street South on Saturday.

Denise Smith, a mother of four, lives right across the street from where the crash happened. She says when she saw the bike on the ground and the yellow crime scene tape across the street on Saturday, she panicked. "I left my car on Central to run to my house to make sure it was none of my kids. I thought that was my 11-year-old daughter."

Smith says she was heartbroken when she learned it was 40-year-old Kris Jones, who died in the crash. Jones lives nearby.
"That's sad that that innocent woman on that bicycle was killed like that."

Smith says cars drive too fast along 1st Avenue South and she says she doesn't like the bike lane there. "They use this road like it's the freeway. I would never ride in the bike lane."

St. Petersburg police say 27-year-old Matthew Cook may have been racing his red Honda Civic with another car when the crash happened. They say Cook approached an SUV, which was traveling near the speed limit, and tried to pass it by moving into the bike lane. That's when they say Cook saw Jones on her bike and slammed on the brakes.

But it was too late. They say Cook hit Jones, throwing her onto the windshield and roof of his car. The force of the crash was so strong that her bike seat snapped off. Jones died at the scene.

Cook's Honda then smashed into a parked truck and pushed it into a tree.

Click here for a previous story where a witness explains what she saw.

The tragic crash is the topic of discussion at Rya and Chris Lauber's home in St. Petersburg. Chris is an avid cyclist and a member of the St. Petersburg Bicycle Club and the Pinellas County Bicycling Advisory Committee. He says Tampa Bay is out of control when it comes to these types of accidents.

He says, "This woman never stood a chance."

But he says what's more troubling is how some people are reacting to the tragedy. "It's a tragedy any way you look at it. What's even more unnerving is the coldness of the general population that bicyclists should not be out there and how many people talk about the spandex clad cyclists. I'm one of those."

His wife, Rya, has commuted by car along 1st Avenue North every day for 14 years. She traveled the roadway before the parking lanes and bike lane were added. She says, "I always felt that whoever made that decision to add those lanes and add the bike lane didn't do their homework."

Chris says he isn't afraid to bike along that stretch of roadway and has done so several times.

Matthew Cook has not been charged in the crash. Two years ago, he was arrested for aggravated assault with a motor vehicle. He is still in the hospital, but his condition is said to be improving. Cook's daughter was treated and released from the hospital over the weekend.

Meanwhile, St. Petersburg police say they're still looking for a white foreign car that may have been racing with Cook. A spokesperson says types of investigations can take awhile as they wait for toxicology reports and other evidence to be analyzed.