Bicycles in the annual El Tour de Tucson will be streaming through the streets Nov. 20 – hopefully this year without any life-threatening brain injuries or a $3.5 million lawsuit.
Gary Stuebe, of Surprise, was the recipient of both the 2008 brain injury and the recent lawsuit settlement, according to Fox11AZ.
The latter came from suing Pima County and the El Tour organizers. The former came from a 91-year-old driver who turned in front of a stream of about 60 bicyclists on West Ina Road during El Tour two years ago, causing 10 of them to smash into his vehicle and tumble from their cycles, notes a past Tucson Citizen article.
Stuebe, 41 at the time, was the most seriously injured of the pack. He was taken to a Phoenix hospital’s neurological institute in critical condition and spent three months in a coma.
Kind of puts a damper on the ride.
The 91-year-old driver was later identified as William Arthur Wilson, one of the guys who worked on the country’s first atomic bomb that was eventually dropped on Hiroshima during World War II.
Wilson’s scientific mind must have been a bit rusty on that particular day, as he reportedly got out of his vehicle, looked at the damage to his car and the cyclists sprawled on the street – then hopped back into his vehicle and drove away.
Awarding the $3.5 million settlement must have been a fairly easy decision.
Stuebe, who amassed at least $1.5 million in medical bills for multiple brain surgeries following the crash, was declared by the court to be mentally incompetent due to his brain injuries, a report on Tucson Bike Lawyer says. His wife acts as his legal guardian.
Atomic-bomb-maker Wilson got a much less severe sentence. He didn’t get any jail time for the crime of leaving the scene of an accident. He was instead sentenced in 2009 to three years probation and loss of his driving privileges. Wilson also must stay in a Georgia assisted living center, far from the heart of Tucson and the El Tour route.
Bicyclists – and motorists – preparing for this year’s ride may want to keep the Stuebe story in mind and note a few other points brought to us by the Pima County Sheriff’s Department.
About 9,000 cyclists are expected to show up for this year’s 28th annual event, which begins at 7 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m. Nov. 20 at West Church and East Pennington streets.
The route makes a counterclockwise loop around Pima County, with intersections being shut down by uniformed law enforcement throughout the day as bicyclists pass through.
Use caution at all intersections that day, the sheriff’s department says, while we say perhaps give your vehicle a rest altogether.
Go for a walk instead. Perhaps it would be a good idea to ban driving on El Tour day, or at least the El Tour route, altogether.
With no motorists on the road, the bicyclists are apt to be safer and less likely to be injured or go through what Stuebe had to suffer.
El Tour de Tucson route map 2010:
Gary Stuebe’s lawyer, Stephen Leshner, sent an e-mail noting he has a more comprehensive write-up on the crash and subsequent lawsuit at http://www.aztrialblog.com/tp-101022105841.shtml
Leshner says Stuebe was in a coma for 40 days, not three months, as reported from other sources.
Other interesting info includes:
Settlement with driver was made out of court for undisclosed amount, based on driver’s part in the crash.
The $3.5 million from county and organizers “is to be paid entirely from insurance benefits purchased by the El Tour organizers and Pima County; no taxpayer funds were involved.”
Stuebe’s wife, Angela, happens to be a neurosurgical nurse at the Barrow Neurological Institute, where Stuebe was treated.
The update on Stuebe’s condition is also promising:
“Gary is now living at home with Angela and his children. He is looking forward to returning to work. He has been able to return to the gym and start working out in the hope of regaining the top physical condition he was in at the time of the collision. While Gary has many challenges ahead because of his injuries, due to the settlements, Gary’s financial future is secure. Gary and Angela are truly remarkable people, and faced this tragedy with grace and determination. I’m proud to have been their lawyer, and I will always be their friend.”
What do you think?
Should Mr. Atomic bomb have gotten a harsher sentence?
Should driving be banned altogether for El Tour?