By Emiley Morgan
Published: Thursday, April 29, 2010 3:40 p.m. MDT
SALT LAKE CITY — Two Arizona men who were critically injured in a bicycle race last year have filed a lawsuit against the organizers of the event and two men driving vehicles involved in the crash.
David Collins and J. Steven Beck, both of Mesa, Ariz., were hospitalized after an Aug. 22, 2009, accident that occurred in American Fork Canyon while the pair was competing in the 1,000 Warriors Bicycle Race.
Collins was leading a group of five cyclists down the canyon when the Ford Explorer the group was riding behind — driven by Utah County resident David W. Christiansen — slammed on its brakes to avoid hitting an oncoming vehicle. The driver of that vehicle, Greg L. Rasmussen of Salt Lake County, had apparently swerved into the westbound lane in order to avoid hitting a cyclist in the road.
The lawsuit names Rasmussen, Christiansen and USA Cycling Inc. as defendants, alleging all three are responsible for causing “significant impairments” to Beck and Collins. Collins, Beck and their wives are named as plaintiffs.
According to the lawsuit, USA Cycling acted with “recklessness and negligence” because it failed to “provide a reasonably safe biking venue” and misrepresented to participants that the Alpine Loop section of the course would be closed to vehicle traffic. The men would have never signed consent and release documents had they known there would be automobiles on that stretch of the race, the lawsuit states. Rasmussen is accountable, the lawsuit claims, because he failed to stop at the scene of the crash and because he entered an oncoming lane. Christiansen’s fault was slamming on his brakes “without warning, despite the presence of five bicycle racers following behind his vehicle.”
Collins suffered broken facial bones, multiple lacerations, severe neck trauma, a crushed vertebrae, punctured and collapsed lungs and nerve damage to his shoulder and legs, according to the lawsuit. Those who responded to the incident reported that Collins suffered the worst injuries among the five cyclists, because he crashed through the rear window of the SUV After the crash, Collins was transported to University Hospital, where he underwent facial reconstructive surgery and was placed in a medically induced coma. He later told the Deseret News his entire face had to be lined with titanium.
Beck suffered multiple lacerations, abrasions and contusions, a fractured rib and a punctured lung, the lawsuit states
Collins and Beck are asking for special damages, which they say will cover past, current and future medical bills and general damages to compensate “physical and emotional pain and suffering.”
Rasmussen filed a response in which he denied “each and every allegation” against him in the lawsuit, stating that the allegations are all speculative and can’t be proven. He said the crash was also “caused by the acts” of the other defendants, over which he had “no control.”
The case was initially filed in 3rd District Court in March but was transferred to federal court Wednesday because the plaintiffs and defendants are from three separate states. A call to USA Cycling, which is based in Colorado, was not immediately returned.