Top stories of 2015: #6 — Drivers under the influence strike and kill locals riding bicycles
A series of bike fatalities rocked the Champlain Valley this spring, prompting public outcry and discussion around sharing the region’s scenic roads.
On April 14, Middlebury resident Kelly Boe was struck and killed by a car while cycling on Hamilton Road in Weybridge with his wife. Boe, who worked as the manager of Middlebury College’s central heating plant, was transported to Porter Hospital by Middlebury Regional EMS, where he was pronounced deceased. He was 55, the father of two teenage daughters, and very active in the community.
State police said the car’s driver, 27-year-old Nathan Dearing, agreed to submit to a breath test at the scene, which measured his blood-alcohol level at 0.111 percent, according to court records. Dearing, a Middlebury resident, pleaded innocent in Addison Superior Court, criminal division, to a felony count of driving under the influence with death resulting, and a misdemeanor count of driving with a suspended license for the fifth time. He faces up to 17 years in prison on the criminal charges and additional time on a separate, violation of parole offense. His extensive criminal record includes a felony larceny and several misdemeanor offenses, including two drunken driving offenses, unlawful trespassing, careless and negligent driving, speeding, retail theft and a Department of Fish & Wildlife violation. His record indicates that he was cited for driving with a suspended license three times in 2015 alone.
The case against Dearing was still working its way through the courts at year’s end.
A well-attended bike ride in Boe’s honor took place in the spring.
Just 12 days after the Kelly Boe tragedy, a crash on Route 116 in Hinesburg resulted in the death of two local residents. Police estimated 17-year-old Joseph Marshall of Hinesburg was driving close to 80 miles per hour when he struck cyclist Richard Tom of Hinesburg before losing control of his own car and crashing. Hinesburg police say Marshall had been repeatedly warned about driving with excessive speed. A report later determined Marshall was under the influence of marijuana at the time of the crash. Tom was well known as an avid bicyclist.
In May, the Vermont Agency of Transportation published a report that sought to identify the state’s most popular roads among cyclists for recreation, leisure, running errands or commuting to work or school. Cyclists around Vermont provided comment on the 2,426 miles of state roads classified by visitors as “highly desirable,” “moderately desirable” or “least desirable. ” The report is important because it sets the stage for future bike-related infrastructure and safety projects on Vermont roadways.
On June 17, a Charlotte man who was biking in Ferrisburgh was killed when he was struck by a car driven by a Ferrisburgh woman who was charged with drunken driving. Holly Gonyeau, 36, was ultimately not charged in the death of Dr. Kenneth E. Najarian, 60, after police said their investigation found he had attempted a U-turn in the path of Gonyeau’s car, and was at fault in the accident. Gonyeau’s roadside blood-alcohol contest read 0.123. Some questioned whether the fact that Gonyeau is married to a Williston police sergeant influenced the investigation, but county law enforcement officials said that connection was irrelevant. Gonyeau pleaded no contest to a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol and was sentenced to a year’s probation and 80 days of community service in Addison County.