Cyclist killed in ‘misadventure’ inquest finds

| 16/10/2017 | 31 Comments
Cayman News Service

Rhonda Azan

(CNS): Rhonda Azan (61) was killed as a result of misadventure, a jury sitting in the Coroners Court found Friday. The local woman was struck by a F-250 truck during twilight one evening in October 2015 as she cycled against the traffic on Shamrock Rock in Savannah. The jury heard two different conclusions from accident re-constructionists over what happened and also that the truck driver was on the phone when he hit Azan. He had told police that he was using a voice-activated system but police on the case admitted that no one ever checked his claims, with the investigating officer telling the court she forgot to do that. 

Given that an inquest jury can only find one of four conclusions (unlawful killing, natural causes, suicide or, as in this case, misadventure) or an open verdict during a coroner’s hearing, their finding was not surprising. But speaking after the inquest was over, family members told CNS that they were “disappointed” by the police investigation.

“We are all very disappointed that it appears that the police did not do their due diligence to ensure that the driver was, as claimed, using a hands-free device, especially as witnesses saw him holding and talking on his phone when he came to assist. It seems that the police took him at his word and didn’t check,” the relatives said.

Azan’s family also raised concerns that the accident re-constructionists who gave evidence to the court had very different views over what happened.

According to witnesses and CCTV evidence, Azan had been shopping at Countryside Shopping Village and had a bag of groceries and a bag of ice on her handlebars as she rode along the shoulder of the road towards the oncoming traffic. She had also purchased some beer at a nearby store and, according to the autopsy, she had a small amount of alcohol in her blood, though less than the legal limit for driving. Witnesses all said that she was in the road at the time she was struck.

The truck driver, Pastor David George, who was heading east on his way home from the First Baptist Church in George Town, said he did not see Azan until he was no more than 10 feet from her and was unable to take evasive action. He admitted that he was on the phone but said it was an integrated voice-activated system. He was found to have no drugs or alcohol in his system.

Police officer Ledford Butler, an RCIPS accident expert, found that as Azan had consumed some alcohol and had tied her shopping bags to the bike’s handlebars, she was likely to have been unstable as she rode along the road and could have swerved into the traffic.

However, Colin Redden, the independent vehicle collision inspector who had concluded that the truck was mechanically sound, said that given all of the conditions, the driver of the truck should have seen the cyclist long before he claimed he did and the fact that he did not take evasive action sooner suggested  inattention on his part.

During the inquest the jury heard that Pastor George was arrested on suspicion of causing death by careless driving following the collision but he was never charged, as the director of public prosecutions concluded there was not enough evidence.

According to the pathologist who testified, Azan died as a result of multiple blunt impact traumas to her head, chest and abdomen. When the truck hit her, witnesses saw her flung into the air and land against a concrete wall before falling on to the pavement. She was pronounced dead at the hospital less than hour after the collision.

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Comments (31)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Voters need to ensure that the NRA Board delivers safe areas for cyclists and pedestrians who share our busy roadways with motorized vehicles traveling at great speed.

    The 2015-2020 Plan describes an “Island-wide Shoulder Improvement & Bicycle Lanes Installation Program” beginning in 2016/17 thru 2020. It also describes an “Island-Wide Roadway Lighting Improvement Program”.

    We need to hold this Board, and CPI Minister Joey Hew accountable for delivering this necessary infrastructure as promised and on schedule. Let’s not risk another life glossing over, or deferring this mission.

    Let’s start with asking which groups from the active Cayman Islands cycling community have been invited to liaise with the NRA? Any?

  2. Sav says:

    Condolences to the family again,

    For the rest of you wondering why they, ride side by side, ride into incoming traffic, – back in the good ole days it was mandatory to have a licensed bicycle, serial number, make and model etc. when it was to be used on the main road. Simply put with the changes done back in the late 80’s the RCIP cant inforce a road law for this vehicle (bike).

  3. Anonymous says:

    Wrong side of the road for a cyclist…
    This is a horrible tragedy for all. That picture of her at Christmas time makes me sad.
    My heart goes out to the family.

  4. Anonymous says:

    She was riding in the middle of the road into oncoming traffic. Why are cyclists not held to the same standard as motor vehicles?

    • Anonymous says:

      Of course, there is no real world enforcement for either, nor any alternative safe place for cyclists and pedestrians/joggers who must share many of our busy roadways. She was on the shoulder of the road which is not maintained, already fraught with pot holes, nails, gravel, and other safety hazards as it is. We need to have safe, maintained areas for cyclists and pedestrians, preferably before the next obituary. It’s our fault for not insisting on a higher standard of planning and roadway design.

    • Anonymous says:

      Well because they are riding a bicycle, I have never in my entire life heard of someone on a pedal cycle riding head on into a vehicle and any occupant/s of the vehicle dying, have you? So what standards are you talking about? Please dont tell me giving them tickets for minor traffic infractions lol. I drive around town daily running my errands and I rarely see an unmarked police vehicle much less a marked one unless of course you drive across GTPS you see quite a few of them parked in the Station parking lot.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Once again, and to no surprise, the RCIP is showing that it has some serious issues internally. How could anything be forgotten???!! Don’t they owe it to the public to ensure that a FULL and PROPER investigation is conducted in all cases??

    Totally shameful.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Why do cyclists in Cayman ride into the traffic rather than on the left hand side of the road?

    • Anonymous says:

      Because we are afraid of being mowed down from behind. The fact is, the majority of our roads do not facilitate bike riders at all. I’m a part of a group of like minded individuals who ride on the weekends. We are very cognizant of the fact that there are those people who drive and text, etc.

      This was a terrible tragedy.

      • Anonymous says:

        Well, you can’t help some of these cyclists, this lady aside; I have seen too many cyclists riding in the lane for the cars when there is a designated cycling lane. WHY?

        It is absolutely frustrating and bares a sense of entitlement that you think you can ride your bicycle in the lane as the car when you have a designated cycling lane!

        It is beyond egotistical!

        RIP to this lady who is not included in the above.

  7. satirony says:

    There’s a very good reason why it’s illegal to ride against the traffic. I experienced a perfect illustration of why last week: it was dark and raining, and oncoming headlights and inappropriate spotlights were turning the road into a dazzle of reflected lights. A cyclist, suddenly appeared on my inside traveling towards me. Think about: if I’m doing 30 mph and he’s doing 15 mph, we pass at 45 mph. Yet if he’s riding with the traffic, I will pass him at just 15 mph. The legal way increases the time available for me to react by 300% and reduces the energy of any impact by 900%. It’s simple physics, do the math!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Bike lanes anyone?

  9. Anonymous says:

    Did not see a cyclist until he was 10 feet away? That in an off itself should be a damning admission of dangerous driving.

    • Anonymous says:

      What? Not seeing someone is not dangerous driving.

    • Anonymous says:

      Many of the cyclists riding into oncoming traffic do not take into consideration that traffic pulling out to the left does not usually need to take into account items passing faster than pedestrians so that check for anything to the left of the vehicle is not the major concern. These cyclists are often not noticed until the very last minute because they are not going with the traffic flow. The police should be holding all road users to the same standards – riding on pavements, against the traffic, parking on double yellows, across from junctions (obscuring the view of other road users). All of it matters because we are all moving in machines that can take a human life – including cyclists v. pedestrians.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I almost hit this same lady on Newlands Road some years before her fateful accident. She swerved into the road in front of my car and at the time was also carrying grocery bags attached to her bicycle handles. I am very thankful not to have hit her, and she was very lucky for my quick reaction. That encounter was in the middle of the day and it was bright and sunny; I was not on my cell phone at the time.

    • Anonymous says:

      No driver should feel they have amnesty to strike avoidable hazards; be they chickens, cats, iguanas, cyclists, or pedestrians. Driving is a privilege not a right. We should always be piloting vehicles defensively, with full awareness and sufficient care to anticipate all endemic driving situations at any moment, at any time of day or in any light conditions. This responsibility is explained to every learning driver before they are allowed to take the wheel. Therefore: Expect unlit cyclists riding against traffic with bags of ice; Expect Iguanas crossing the road; Expect joggers; Expect the Omnibus to merge suddenly in front of you without warning, etc etc.

      • Anonymous says:

        Expect accidents too- that is why they are called accidents. Unfortunately some of us are a bit more important than a bloody iguana. What a stupid comparison.

        • Anonymous says:

          It was meant to be a stupid comparison to illustrate how unnecessarily exposed Cyclists and Pedestrians are – by neglected design. Not one of our fatal accidents has ushered in new policies and WE are to blame for passively allowing future preventable “accidents”.

    • Anonymous says:

      This is such a tragedy for both Ms. Rhonda and Pastor Dave. The same thing happened with me on Newlands road. I was never more frightened at what almost happen. I was driving towards Fosters and she was going in the same direction and her bicycle swerved out in front of my car. Fortunately there was no other car at that time otherwise I would have struck it trying to get out of her path. So sad she died like that though. She was always wobbling all over the road, I guess no one could really stop it.

    • Anonymous says:

      And your point being?? That has no bearing on that matter at hand. Surely, based on your one off “incident ” you cannot be establishing a pattern are you?!!

      • Anonymous says:

        It does have bearing on the matter at hand. It might have been a one off incident for each person who had the encounter but apparently these one off incidents are starting to add up. I would hate to hit anyone on the road as much as I would hate to be involved in an accident that was totally not my fault. So sad but I hope others will learn from this incident and be more careful either in a car or on a bicycle.

  11. Anonymous says:

    May God have mercy on Pastor David Jones, a horrible situation for all involved and tough to live with for anyone.

  12. Anonymous says:

    By the end of the first paragraph I was already mentally penning an outraged comment.
    However, by the end of the news report it is clear this was a very sad case riddled with a number of unfortunate elements.

    May she rest in peace and I wish the family healing in their grieving process.

    At the very least she and her family deserved a higher standard of police investigation and reporting.

    • Anonymous says:

      It was dark, she wore no lights or reflectors, she was in the middle of the lane. The road is narrow, there is almost no shoulder. Her blood alcohol level wasn’t taken until 2 hours after the accident, at which time it likely had dropped.

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