Dubois doctor hit and killed on his bike
A friend pointed this out to me.
The pic makes it look like one of those “idyllic” American communities. Nice houses, large well-kept lawns, a church, and narrow roads with no sidewalks.
I have to say that the 4-foot passing requirement law they mention has me scratching my head. IMO, even at fairly hefty speeds, 30 inches would be adequate.
This is horrible!
I lived in Du Bois from 2004-2008. I wasn’t a cyclist then, but I remember thinking that particular intersection was an issue for pedestrians and cyclists.
The pic makes it look like one of those “idyllic” American communities. Nice houses, large well-kept lawns, a church, and narrow roads with no sidewalks.
It’s a pretty standard rural PA town. Not what I would call ‘cycling friendly’, but most of the town does have sidewalks. Sidewalks that are so poorly repaired that most people walk in the street…but there *are* sidewalks.
The intersection you are seeing is about 1/2 a mile from their big mall. There is no sidewalk immediately around that area, but it picks up a couple hundred feet away in all directions IIRC.
Article didn’t have a response from the driver but let’s all say it together “I didn’t see him!”
One of my friends knew him. He loved the Tour de France. Had a huge knowledge of the history of the event.
I am Dr. Varacallo’s sister. What happened to my brother is tragic and even beyond that ……” Unbelievable, in the way it was handled by the police”……. Without getting into too much detail at this point, I am horrified that the driver was not given a drug/alcohol test by the Sandy township police. The police chief Don Routch said, ” they didn’t smell alcohol” when I asked why they didn’t test this 28 year old driver. Mr. Routch was so rude that he actually hung up on me when I questioned him as to why certain things were not done.Can you believe a police chief hanging up on the victim’s family? I was not rude…. only asking pertinent questions to a defensive police chief that told me he had to protect his police officers. I responded that…. ” I had to protect my brother, his family, his 6 children and his 2000 patients that depended on him every day to be there for them.” When someone is near death, shouldn’t you rule out that alcohol or drugs were not a part of this equation? Excuse me, but do you smell drugs????
What if this man was a ” drowsy driver”??? This is a charge as serious as DWI. The National Highway and Traffic Safety Bureau says that there are 1500 deaths a year attributed to drowsy driving. There are 100,000 accidents!!! Drowsy driving occurs between 11:00PM and 8:00 AM in the morning and is usually committed by male drivers between the ages of 16-29. What if this man was celebrating the finality of his divorce the night before and his reflexes weren’t up to par due to that celebrating???? That would constitute drowsy driving!! When he hit my brother the driver’s adrenal hormones could kick in and he may not appear that he was impaired in any way…. even though he was prior to the accident. ( Fright or Flight scenario)
The National Hughway Traffic and Safety Bureau reports that police rarely, if ever, acutally use drowsy driving in their reports, even though it is a charge and is as serious as DWI. So why not??? We all know that if someone is drinking the night before or hasn’t slept well for a long time their reflexes are impaired!!
I am shocked and appalled………not only because my brother was killed, but because a crucial piece of evidence was not investigated. It is too late to help Al,but possibly someone else can be helped from his murder!!
nick, ghost bike? its a little out of the way, but not so far as to stop us from showing that this wont be forgotten.
oh man, Kathi I’m really sorry to hear that the investigation was handled so poorly. My condolences to you.
Deepest condolences, Kathi. Thanks for posting. This is so sad and sickening. Things must change. Some state or national level advocacy organization has to start to step up and bring lawsuits in these instances, that is apparently the only way society is going to change.
I’m so sorry. That’s absolutely obscene about the police hanging up on you. To be treated like that at all is terrible, but while you’re grieving for your brother? That’s just off the scale. And the rest of the neglect on the part of the police, and the chief saying he had to protect his officers? Seems like he should be holding them accountable for how they do their jobs. I don’t understand it – and I’m really sorry you’re having to go through all this.
My boyfriend spoke highly of your brother – they went to the Tour de France together (with a group of people) in 2004. And he was really impressed with how much he knew about the tour’s history.
I’m so sorry for your loss and I feel your outrage. When I was in Jr High, my 7 year old cousin was killed by a drunk driver. The driver had been pulled over more than 10 times in the years prior to the incident. But he was never issued a citation for DUI/DWI because the local cops thought he was a “good guy.” (i think the number was actually 20). It was truly horrible, and I can’t believe that any cop worth their salt wouldn’t give a breathalyser test immediately as standard operating procedure.
I can’t recall, is sheriff an elected official in PA? Seems like this basic incompetence in law enforcement is something for which he should have to answer to the public.
If there is going to be a ghost bike put up, who ever does it should PM me. I can give some dinning recommendations for the area.
I would also like to offer my condolences, Kathi. That response from the local authorities is beyond disappointing.
To edmonds59’s point, are there any organizations that would be able to act in this situation?
@cburch A ghost bike seems like a good start to me, as it’s only two hours away. I’d be happy to help in some way, with transportation, preparation, or anything else.
Colin, I’m on it. Give me a day or two to figure out the details.
I am assuming a ghost rider is dedicated to a fallen cyclist??? I live in the Plum/ Oakmont area and would be happy to travel with you.
Thank-you for thinking of him and showing your love and concern. It is so much appreciated!!!
Thank-you for your kind messages………I am not the cyclist my brother was, but my Cannondale has brought me much enjoyment!! Anything that I can do
to help the cause, please let me know. This whole thing is an outrage and your posts only validate it moreso!!
When I was in Jr High, my 7 year old cousin was killed by a drunk driver. The driver had been pulled over more than 10 times in the years prior to the incident. But he was never issued a citation for DUI/DWI because the local cops thought he was a “good guy.” (i think the number was actually 20). It was truly horrible, and I can’t believe that any cop worth their salt wouldn’t give a breathalyser test immediately as standard operating procedure.
This is a topsy turvy world in which the bad guy gets the breaks ….and the good guy gets punished.
Ghost bikes are white bicycles placed at the scene where cyclists have been hit. They are meant to be memorials for the fallen, and reminders for all road users that life is fragile, and everyone needs to be careful.
When we put out the bike, I will arrange a car-pool from the city, much like we did for Don Parker.
For more on ghost bikes: http://www.ghostbikes.org/
Is there a local cycling club or group that he rode with to perhaps coordinate with?
My condolences for your loss, Kathi. I think it is outrageous that motorists are allowed to kill cyclists without consequence. Whether the driver is drunk, tired, or completely sober and awake, failure to control the two ton missile you’re piloting should have serious enough consequences to make people take the responsibility of driving seriously.
Sorry for your loss Kathi, and sorry for the way the police are handling the accident. It’s not right.
If this does indeed happen ( ghost rider), I think we should get media coverage for the event. Let me know when…. and I will call the TV stations , or if someone else knows any tv personalities……….they can do the calling. Let’s make this something special for everyone concerned and bring attention to some very serious injustices that are happening in the biking world.
Whether the driver is drunk, tired, or completely sober and awake, failure to control the two ton missile you’re piloting should have serious enough consequences to make people take the responsibility of driving seriously.
How appropriately stated!!!
Kathi, I have some experience getting media out for these, and have some contacts, so if you like, I can take care of it all for you. I figure this is a burden you shouldn’t have to deal with.
Kathi, very sorry for your loss. It seems that more often than not people in rural communities like DuBois have the mentality that bikes don’t belong on the road. No matter what. A lot of them sincerely belive that bikes aren’t legally allowed on the road and that they are not responsible if they hit a cyclist. No joke, I personally know a lot of these people. In this case, it seems like the police have had the exact same mentality. They should really learn about traffic laws.
I’ll help out any way i can with the ghost bike, I think I might even have another old bike to donate for this one too.
Nick, that would be wonderful!! I have been ill for the past several years, so whatever anyone can do to help would be most appreciated. I know the only stations that reported my brother’s death were the Altoona and Johnstown stations ( WJAC and WTAJ) They panned the car, the bike and Al’s shoes remaining on the road, which was eerie to say the least. I will never forget those shoes lying on the road…… I have been reading a few of the hundreds of posts for Mr. Parker since I wrote. I didn’t realize the support this organization gave………..I am sure it was a real tribute to a wonderful man. He , by the way, was 52 like my brother. His murderer, and I don’t say that lightly, came from behind…. my brother’s murderer crossed the road and went into Al’s lane. Scott Sago, the driver, said there was sun in his eyes, but the family has checked this out and the sun was far down the road and over by the mall.The sun would not be causative according to family members that checked it out several times at the same time with the same results. However, the sun issue still came up in the police report. The sun issue seems to be a common thread in these kinds of accidents. Can it be that a man was arrested for killing a dog, and as far as I know, nothing has been done to the man that killed my brother??? It was just an accident????? How can you cross the road into someone else’s lane and it be an accident??? Of course the driver was underinsured too!!
Sent to Mary Robb Jackson, KDKA, this morning.
“With some sadness, I wanted to let you know that another cyclist death has occurred in our area, out near Dubois. This happened in July, but just recently started to come under discussion in the cycling community. The circumstances are almost identical to Don Parker’s – 52 year old man, experienced cycling enthusiast, doing everything by the book, killed by a distracted driver. This man was a doctor, a church-goer, and as they say, a pillar of the community.
(linked to Courier Express story)
Members of the Bike Pgh community are currently corresponding with the victims sister, and may travel to the area to place another ghost bike. It sounds as though the victims family was treated somewhat dismissively by the authorities, which would be very distressing. This is almost too much to take, but we continue on. The cycling community is in the second week of it’s annual “Bike Fest”, which celebrates the overwhelmingly positive aspects of cycling, and we will keep doing what we can to make the roads safer for everyone, no matter what their mode of transport.”
Some state or national level advocacy organization has to start to step up and bring lawsuits in these instances, that is apparently the only way society is going to change.
I,m so sorry for your loss,I also know that there is nothing anyone can say to lessen your heart ache. Don Parker was my son and like your brother a good man, a pilar of the community they will be deeply missed. I see you have read what occured in the accident 11 weeks ago yesterday to my son.
There are just too many careless,inconsiderate drivers on the roads.
The only way I know to help other bicylist not end up this way is to help support what Bike Pittsburgh is doing to have better laws passed to protect them. I have offered to speak and send letter to who ever I can help with he passage of these better laws.
The “sun in his eyes” defense is entirely bogus, of course. Even if the sun WAS in his eyes, if you can’t see where you’re going, stop moving!
The man has no case. Drunk or not. Sunlight or not. You do not strike stranded cars merely because they’re in your way, so why ever try to justify hitting any bike on the road, anywhere, anytime?
I think a wrongful death suit could fly here, even without the DWI evidence.
Stu, I agree with your reasoning 1000% and don’t really understand how any sane, rational person could *not* come to the same conclusions.
Unfortunately, I think most people think “oh, the sun was in his eyes”, and that’s some kind of justification for what happened. And everything you said is some sort of radical notion. *That* is the real problem.
Without better law enforcement, better laws won’t mean anything. I don’t want a law that “sends a message”. I want an LEO that sends a message.
A couple of questions come to mind:
1 – Do we need a Ride Of Silence for Albert Varacallo?
2 – Do we need to do some sort of protest ride to send a message to Dubois law enforcement? Suggestions as to what form this might take?
3 – Who is the chief of police answerable to? As someone else asked, is this an appointed or an elected position?
I’m looking for constructive ways to get a message across. Which message, and what audience, are my biggest unknowns. Form will follow function.
I wish I didn’t always have to be so cynical, but I doubt elected officials in dubois are worried about citizens of allegheny county. If a public event garners public sympathy, perhaps there might be some value in it, but as a show of political weight, not so much.
The Sandy Township Police Department investigated…. not the DuBois Police Department, just to clarify matters.I am not sure how Don Routch got his job, but I will try and find out.I tried to google it, but nothing of value came up.
We contacted other boroughs to ask if they would have done a drug /alcohol test and they all said “yes” because of the severity of the injuries. (My brother was near death at the scene of the accident.) When I told this to the police chief, he called me a liar and said I never talked to any other police departments. He also bragged to a relative that he hung up on me!!
Aleen Mary….. thank you for posting. I am so sorry for your loss as well. If necessary, we can work together in any capacity you feel would be helpful!!!A mother should never have to bury a child……….I lost two little girls, so I know how hollow your heart is at this moment. The pain is beyond words……..My mom turned 80 on August 2nd and she is having difficulty with Al’s death. She is happy that this group has offered to support our family. I am amazed myself and feel that it was the right thing to do to hop on this board. I have let Al’s wife know that you are planning something too.
I can’t even begin to say how much your kind words and condolences mean to our family and myself!!! Having a community of people with a common interest that care and want to help is precious!! Bonding together in a time like this means so much. I also want to see that no one goes through what the Parker family and our family have had to endure.
This is so sad, and one more reminder to me to hug my kids and wife every morning before riding to work, passing withing a quarter mile of where Don Parker was killed.
It is incredibly frustrating that the odds of getting charged with breaking the law seem to to approach zero if you kill someone.
My condolences to you and your family.
I would like to extend my sympathy to you for the loss of your daughters.
I have let Scott Bricker know that I am ready to help and I’m sure he can use your help also in having laws passed to help the safty of the bicyclist. I’m waiting to hear from him to see what he needs me to do.
Aleen, I am willing to be at your side in this.
If we stand by and do nothing, then more atrocities such as ours will happen. When a 28 year old man is not given a drug and alcohol test at the very minimum, I can only say why not????Is there something wrong that all parameters/possibilites are not investigated??? We, ourselves, have already uncovered some pertinent information concerning this individual. When someone causes an accident, all you have is the few minutes that you are in their presence. There is a whole history of this individual’s conduct that must be taken into consideration. To say you don’t smell alcohol and only did a field sobriety test does not constitute what happens on a daily basis or even what happened within the past 24 hours. One minute does not tell the whole story and thus everything , and I mean everything, needs to be done to insure that the victim’s family is receiving the best care that the law can provide.
Yesterday, I happened to be in the Southside and ran into Mike Clark ( from WTAE) doing a promotional at the bookstore. I told him what Bike Pittsburgh was planning for my brother and gave him my name and phone number. ( I can’t say if he will remember to call, but I did plant the seed) He did mention that the DuBois area was covered by WTAJ and WJAC, but that they could make it relative to Pittsburgh. Let’s pray that they will pick up the story being that a local group is honoring a fallen biker elsewhere. Anyways, I took a step out of my element and approached him about TV coverage. Perhaps I was supposed to be at that bookstore……..this was not a planned visit, nor did I know that a promotional was underway with any TV personalities. Perhaps I was in the right place at the right time. If I don’t hear from them, I will call them…. Or some of the Bike Pittsburgh members could call as well. We would definitely need to contact the other two stations that I mentioned.
I am not new to recklessness. The most recent was a doctor’s misdiagnosis which resulted in a heart attack, after he gave me too much medication…. then having three stents put in when I never had coronary artery disease………All of this put me in heart failure….Try and get justice and you will see that it is easier to get a million bucks for spilled hot coffee from MacDonalds. Are you aware even though the captain of the Exxon Valdez was drunk, it took 20 years for that case to be won…… 6000 people died in the meantime and the parties only got $15,000.00. The corporations took the case up to the Supreme Court because they had money to fight the battle and keep in it limbo. That is why I am so strongly committed to helping this cause……..I have seen so much injustice happen myself…….. this organization is so strongly united that there may be a chance for some good to result which will benefit future bikers, as well as present bikers. If we stand by and do nothing……..things will continue on as they are. I don’t see that happening with the caliber of people that are on this board. Injustice goes on everywhere and is in every one of our lives. Some have more and some have less, but it is still there. If we remain quiet, then things remain as they are!!
Well said Kathi
I wonder who the law is protecting usually it is the victim that gets screwed not the perp.
When I hear from Scott I’ll let you know.
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