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Rockwell man charged with hitting cyclists

The Salisbury Post: Rockwell man charged with hitting cyclists

Friday, May 21, 2010 12:00 AM

By Emily Ford

eford@salisburypost.com

Chris Harkey watched from his bike as a Nissan Pathfinder swerved into a group of cyclists including his wife Wednesday evening near Gold Hill in Cabarrus County.

About 50 yards from the collision on St. Stephen's Church Road, Harkey was with a second group of cyclists. All 18 friends were out for a weekly training ride.

"It was your worst nightmare," said Harkey, a professional cyclist from Mount Pleasant who rides for the Subaru-Gary Fisher Cycling Team. "I could see the colors, orange and black. I could see the colors flying through the air."

Harkey knew the cyclist who was wearing orange and black, his team's colors, was either his wife, Lori Harkey, or her twin sister, Lisa Preslar.

"Those two girls," he said, "that's all I could think of."

Two months earlier, Harkey had delivered a eulogy at the funeral of Adam Little, his teammate and friend struck and killed on St. Patrick's Day in Concord while riding his bike to work in Charlotte.

As Harkey approached the scene at 7:20 p.m. Wednesday, he was afraid someone else he loved had died.

"I was concerned that I was going to ride up there and find that someone had been killed," he said.

No one died in the collision.

"It was a mess," said Lee Wonnacott, who lives on St. Stephen's Church Road.

He asked his wife to call 911 after they heard screaming in front of their house.

Bikes and bodies were strewn across his yard, Wonnacott said.

The N.C. Highway Patrol charged Daniel Burton Wilson II, 21, of 325 Sand Road in Rockwell, with six counts of felony hit and run. Authorities say Wilson turned into the cyclists and struck six, dragging one underneath his Nissan Pathfinder.

Wilson fled the scene but turned himself in at the Cabarrus County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday night, Sgt. G.A. Barger said. A magistrate released Wilson on a written promise to appear in court Tuesday.

He could face additional charges, Barger said.

The Cabarrus County District Attorney's Office is determining "if this guy was trying to intentionally run over the cyclists," Barger said.

The cyclist who Harkey saw flying through the air was his wife.

She sustained a concussion and blows to the chest and abdomen. She was transferred to Carolinas Medical Center-Northeast in Concord, along with Tim Sigmon of Concord, Jack King of Mount Pleasant and Nathan Gray of Concord, an assistant principal at Mount Pleasant Elementary School.

Nick Fishbein of Mooresville and Richard Hancock of Oakboro, who Chris Harkey said was the cyclist caught under the vehicle, were treated at the scene.

Steve Merithew, a volunteer firefighter with the Gold Hill department, arrived soon after the collision. He lives a few houses away from the scene of the accident and said he helped assess and stabilize the victims.

He was most concerned about victims going into shock, Merithew said, but no one did.

Cabarrus County Sheriff's Office and EMS and the N.C. Highway Patrol responded as well.

Wilson was driving north on St. Stephens Church Road just south of the Rowan County line between Kluttz and Sansbury roads, according to the Highway Patrol. The cyclists were traveling south, going downhill at about 30 mph, Harkey said.

"For whatever reason, we don't know why, he went left of center and hit the leaders of the group," Barger said. "We don't know if he was turning or what."

One cyclist went over the hood of the Pathfinder, one went under the car and several crashed into the vehicle, Barger said.

"He stopped and drove off again with one rider under his car," he said.

Cyclists attempted to stop the car, and Wilson drove around them in the ditch, dislodging the cyclist from under the vehicle, Barger said.

Chris Harkey said Hancock jumped out from under the vehicle and was not run over, but his bicycle was.

Before the vehicle sped away, cyclists recorded the tag number, Harkey said.

"What I could see was the vehicle starting to move," he said. "I stopped in the road, used my bike to block the road and got my hands out, and he comes at me and swerves around me."

A motorist who saw the collision followed Wilson's car and recorded the tag number as well.

Authorities tracked the number to Wilson's father, also named Daniel Wilson, of Stanley in Gaston County. The father confirmed that his son drives the Pathfinder and gave authorities his ex-wife's phone number to help track down his son, Barger said.

Wilson's mother, Cathy Sienerth of Concord, cooperated with authorities, Barger said.

She and Wilson arrived at the Cabarrus County Sheriff's Office, where Wilson turned himself in at 11:30 p.m.

Authorities had no reason to think Wilson was impaired when he was arrested, about four hours after the collision, Barger said.

Two victims, Sigmon and Gray, remain in the hospital.

Sigmon suffered a deep laceration on his leg and internal injuries, Chris Harkey said. He has undergone one surgery and will have another.

Gray will spend one more night in the hospital, Harkey said. King, who broke his collar bone, was released but will require surgery, he said.

The group has enjoyed the Wednesday training ride for 15 years, Harkey said.

The cyclists who were hit were riding single file on the white line, he said. But drivers are often impatient when they encounter cyclists on the road.

"Please, just give us 10 seconds," said Harkey, who was hit by a car in 1997. "There could have been some more deaths, very easily."

Six of the 18 cyclists Wednesday evening were from the Subaru-Gary Fisher team. After Adam Little's death, another teammate was struck by a car in Huntersville and a third was seriously injured during a race in Boone, Harkey said. "There's been a dark cloud over us since Adam," he said.