U.S. 27 Cyclists Rammed by Car Say It Could Have Been Worse

Three bicyclists injured in the Weston area in a Dec. 22 crash said they were fortunate despite their injuries, saying in recent interviews that they could have died in the crash

By Juan Ortega
|  Thursday, Jan 3, 2013  |  Updated 10:04 AM EDT
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Broward Sheriff's Office

A Broward sheriff's report illustrates how a car struck a group of bicyclists this month on U.S. 27 in the Weston area.

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More than 20 staples are lined across the large cut on George Mayer’s head, helping his injury heal, he says.

Ernesto Toledo says his leg remains scraped and swollen, and Kevin Lee says he still has pain in his hip and neck area.

It has been a week since the three bicyclists’ cycling group was rammed from behind by a passing car on U.S. 27 in the Weston area. The three men said they were fortunate despite their injuries, saying in recent interviews that they could have died in the crash.

“All in all, I consider myself pretty lucky,” said Mayer, 34, of Plantation. “I feel bad for the other guys. It could have been a lot worse for all of us.”

Lee added: “I was extremely fortunate.”

They said they hope the other two cyclists injured from the collision -- Grant D. Bruggemann, 42, of Cooper City, and Robert Gardner, 41, of Davie -- have swift recoveries. Bruggemann and Gardner couldn’t be reached for comment Sunday despite phone calls to listed numbers.

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The driver whose car struck the cyclists, identified as Tommie L. Ellison, 53, of Leisure City, was given a citation on the charge of careless driving, according to a Broward sheriff’s report. He was unhurt.

Reached by phone Saturday, Ellison said his main concern was the well-being of those injured. “I’m glad that everybody’s OK, and up and moving again,” he said.

Ellison declined to discuss the crash.

The collision occurred about 8:45 a.m. Dec. 22 in an outer northbound lane of U.S. 27, just north of Southwest 36th Street, the Sheriff’s Office said. U.S. 27, whose posted limit is 65 mph, is a popular destination for cycling groups on the weekends, because the four-lane highway is straight and desolate.

A group of 25 to 30 bicyclists was northbound in the outer northbound lane, when a Nissan Altima, driven by Ellison, approached from behind, according to witnesses and the Sheriff’s Office.

As the Altima’s driver attempted to pass the bicyclists, the driver lost control of the vehicle, the Sheriff’s Office said. The out-of-control Altima veered left, but its rear right side and bumper still collided with the bicyclists, the Sheriff’s Office said.

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“I heard a loud screech coming up and then just a very big bang,” Mayer said. “I just remember getting knocked down and starting to tumble on the grass. There was blood coming from my head. I was face down against the grass, hearing the commotion of what’s going on.”

Toledo, 41, of Hialeah, said he, too, remembers the horrific sound of the car’s brakes. “By the time I looked, the car was hitting me from behind,” he said.

Toledo said the car’s right side mirror got lodged under his arm and broke apart from the vehicle. He said the impact from the collision threw him and his bicycle.

Sunday, Toledo questioned whether the driver was speeding.

“How are you not going to see 30 people in front of you?” he said. “Just the air from the velocity of the car alone was pushing us. I don’t know how he didn’t see us.”

When questioned by the Sheriff’s Office, Ellison said he was trying to change lanes into an inner north lane but said a white pickup traveling in the inner lane had refused to let him in, the sheriff’s report said. 

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Ellison said he applied the brakes and swerved left to avoid colliding with the bicyclists, but lost control of the car, and the rear of his car struck the cycling group, the Sheriff’s Office said. 

Witnesses told the Sheriff’s Office that the Altima’s driver had been in an inner lane, then changed lanes into the outer lane in an attempt to pass the white pickup, the agency said.

The witnesses said the Altima was unable to pass the pickup and “was very close to the group of bicyclists” just before the collision happened, the report said.

Mayer and Bruggemann were taken to Broward Health Medical Center, and Gardner was taken to Cleveland Clinic hospital. Toledo and Lee declined medical attention at the crash site, the sheriff’s report said. Lee said his wife drove him to an urgent care center afterward.

The men’s bicycles, ranging in value from $3,000 to $7,000, were damaged or destroyed, the cyclists said. Toledo said he has since borrowed a friend’s bicycle to keep cycling. His family wants him to stop riding, but he said he can’t because it is his passion.

“That’s what I do,” he said. “I can’t stop riding.”

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