Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cyclist, 46, killed in tragic accident along causeway

Island Reporter May 12, 2011

Officials from the Florida Highway Patrol are still conducting an investigation into a fatal accident that occurred on Saturday morning, which resulted in the death of a 46-year-old cyclist from Fort Myers and caused the closure of the Sanibel Causeway for several hours.

According to the police report, Tracey and Gordon Kleinpell were riding their bicycles along the causeway, heading off the island around 10:55 a.m. A truck driven by Theresa Lynn Shirley, a resident of Bokeelia, drifted into the bike lane along Span C, striking Tracey on her bicycle. Kleinpell hit the guardrail before falling off the bridge and into San Carlos Bay.

The victim was pulled from the water by a nearby boater, but attempts to revive her were unsuccessful.

Gordon Kleinpell was not injured in the accident.

Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Owen T. Keen stated that they are investigating whether Shirley, 46, had fallen asleep at the wheel. It has not been determined whether the driver was under the influence of medication or suffered from any medical condition which may have triggered the accident.

"Something terribly went wrong and caused this crash," said Keen, who added that charges against Shirley have not been filed.

Born in New London, Ct., Tracey graduated from the New England Deaconess School of Nursing in Boston in 1989, and was in the top 10 in her class. In 1996, she earned her bachelor's degree in health care administration from Barry University in Miami, Fla. She worked as a registered nurse and began her career at Lee Memorial Hospital's Diabetes Treatment Center.

An avid athlete and marathon runner, Tracey was personal trainer and certified diabetes educator. She worked for the Cape Coral Wellness Center and had recently worked at Gateway Fitness Center and Fitness on the Move on Metro Parkway in Fort Myers.

The Kleinpell's were avid cyclists and traveled across the causeway together almost every weekend. The couple recently celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary.

As a tribute to fallen riders, both the Caloosa Riders and Bonita Bay Bicycle Club have dedicated their annual "Ride Of Silence," scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 18, to the memories of Kleinpell and Janet Rae LoFranco, a bicyclist from Estero who was killed on Feb. 20.

The "Ride of Silence" memorializes riders injured and killed, seeks to draw motorist’s attention to cyclist’s legal rights to full use of the roadways and inform motorists to keep a watchful eye for cyclists.

Witnesses at the scene of the accident reported that traffic heading towards the causeway was backed up all the way to East Gulf Drive and far up Periwinkle Way on Sanibel while law enforcement officials conducted their investigation.

According to the Sanibel Police Department's incident report, the causeway was reopened to traffic in both directions shortly after 1 p.m.

Earlier stories:

Fox News (interview with Mary Miller, Sanibel Bicycle Club President, emphasizing importance of 3 ft. passing law)

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