Two things that bespeak tragedy, a memorial event and a ghost bicycle, are planned in the wake of an apparent hit-and-run Sunday that claimed a woman’s life and left her riding partner with serious injuries.
Cristin Madden, of Bonita Springs, identified as the woman who was seriously hurt, is recovering after suffering multiple injuries in the crash that killed the woman riding next to her, Debra Purcaro, 64, of Fort Myers.
Posts on bicycle club social media sites since the crash identified both women.
Purcaro was riding with Madden on a straight but narrow section of North River Road when they were struck from behind. Purcaro died at the scene.
Michael Martin, a board member for the Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club, confirmed that plans are being formed by the club for a memorial as well as the placement of a “ghost bike” at the site of the crash on North River Road.
“It was painted yesterday,” he said.
The club’s Facebook page announced that the bike’s installation will take place at 8:30 a.m. Sunday, one week since the crash.
The club welcomed those attending to bring anything they wish to add to the roadside memorial.
The Caloosa Riders have also added $3,000 to the $3,000 already offered as a reward for information leading to an arrest in the case posted by the Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers.
Rob Seibert, a member of the SWFL Critical Mass group and administrator of its Facebook page, said Madden, 47, will have to undergo multiple medical procedures during her recovery.
Madden suffered fractured vertebra and some arterial damage to her neck, he said, but she is expected to make a full recovery.
“Her helmet saved her life,” Seibert said. “She was whacked pretty hard. Bruises and scrapes, but it did do the job.”
Seibert said the group’s next monthly bike ride, planned for April 2, will be dedicated to Purcaro and Madden.
“Deb was a very good energy in our group. She was a lot of fun,” he said. “She had just moved over to the other coast to be near her new grandchild. She made the trip over for the ride. She was someone who was very close to us.”
Seibert said Purcaro and Madden usually rode together.
“It was pretty upsetting, it’s inexcusable,” Seibert said about the crash. “That (the driver) just up and left. It’s such a strange thing.”
Critical Mass, Seibert said, is a more casual or social group and acts as a feeder to other local clubs that carry out longer and more serious rides.
“We have some guidelines,” he said, such as riding in small groups.
“We keep everyone real tight,” he said. “It prevents cars from getting in between and keeps everyone safe. We infrequently have something go awry.”
Seibert said the club rarely has such memorial rides. The only other such event he can remember was one about five years ago for a member who had died after donating a kidney for a family member.
Seibert said he thinks the person who hit Purcaro and Madden lives in the area and wasn’t a tourist or visitor since the road is a rural, narrow two-lane.
“Whoever was driving doesn’t live far,” he said.
He also said a larger vehicle was likely. “I heard there wasn’t a debris field,” he said. “Like you’d get from a lower vehicle.”
The Florida Highway Patrol is searching for the vehicle.
Anyone with information about the crash, or any other traffic-related incident, can call *FHP or SWFL Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-TIPS.
Purcaro’s death was among 18 road fatalities the state is reporting for Lee County in 2021. According to state statistics, it was the second death involving a bicyclist. In 2021, there have been 51 crashes involving bicyclists in Lee County.
Oher crash statistics for Lee County show 61 crashes involving pedestrians, with two of those resulting in fatalities. There have been 669 hit-and-run crashes in Lee County in 2021, including one fatality.
The Dangerous by Design 2021 report produced by Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition released recently showed the Cape Coral-Fort Myers area improving safety for pedestrians marginally. It dropped three spots to 11th among the top 100 U.S. metropolitan statistical areas for pedestrian danger.
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