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Thu, June 27

Bicyclists ride to remember Cornville crash victim and others (with video)

David Waechter reads the poem, Ride of Silence, at the Verde Valley Bike Shop in Cottonwood, on Thursday. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

David Waechter reads the poem, Ride of Silence, at the Verde Valley Bike Shop in Cottonwood, on Thursday. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

It’s been five years since 48-year-old Lynn Hartline was killed after being hit by a vehicle driven by a 90-year-old man while on a bicycle during the MS Ride the Vortex run on Cornville Road.

Thursday, almost five years to the day, her friend David Waechter choked up as he spoke about his close friend and riding partner.

Waechter came up from Gilbert and was talking in front of group of bicyclists gathered in Cottonwood for their annual Silent Ride for bicyclists killed in accidents with motorists.

The accident that killed his friend still affects him and his daughter very much, he said.

Recalling the accident

 Waechter said he was riding on a tandem bike with his daughter, Nina, in the MS Run and Hartline was riding behind them.

“We just made the turn of Beaverhead Flat Road … turning toward Cornville,” Waechter said.

“She was hit before we were,” he said. The sound was “horrific” and it resembled two cars hitting each other behind them, he added.

”And then we Lynn flying over the top of us,” Waechter said.

Waechter said they were forced off the road by the accident.  “Our bike was throwing us to the right as well,” he said. “My daughter believes Lynn hit her going by.”

Waechter said he and his daughter were taken to Verde Valley Medical Center and Hartline was airlifted to Northern Arizona Healthcare in Flagstaff. Waechter said he sustained a dislodged shoulder from a socket in the crash and his daughter had superficial injuries to her hand and back.

Waechter said he left VVMC when he got a call that Hartline was in trouble and got to the Flagstaff hospital just in time. “I spend the last five minutes of her life with her,” he said of his friend and riding partner.

Waechter said his daughter, who came to Flagstaff with her dad but waited in the waiting room, will never be the same after the experience, Waechter said.

Nor will Waechter, who had to call Hartline’s three children and let them know about their mom’s accident.

But Waechter said the families involved support each other and still get together - even this Memorial Day.

Silent Ride for Bicyclists

Waechter drove up from Gilbert Thursday night to join the Verde Valley bicycling family to recognize Hartline and other cyclists who have died after being involved in motor vehicle accidents. Her accident’s anniversary and the annual Silent Ride happen to be two days apart.

Thursday’s recognition also included Pete Bennett, who died on Lower Red Rock Loop Road and SR89A in Sedona in 2007. Before the prayer and poem, ride organizer Bob Richards announced that 28 people died on Arizona highways in 2018 after being involved with a motorists.

It was the 12th year of the Cottonwood Ride of Silence, which is a global event.

 “Lynn died five years ago this coming Friday. It’s hard on all of us.” Waechter said addressing more than 20 bicyclists and others gathered at the Verde Valley Bicycle Co. in Cottonwood Thursday.

“What made it easier, I guess, was the love and support we got from this community,” referring to the notes, cards and flowers left at the five-foot high steel and flower memorial next to the crash site on Cornville Road.

“It helps. It helps a lot,” he told the bicyclists getting ready to take the Silent Ride.

Then the group read the Ride of Silence poem and took off on their bikes with a police escort on the front and a Rice of Silence Banner on a vehicle at the rear.

Waechter rode alone with other riders Thursday, but he said he and Hartline rode many fundraisers together.

They rode in MS bike fundraisers in different states and did an annual ride across Iowa.

Keeping it in perspective

Waechter said he didn’t follow the legal case of the driver after the accident because he was focused on Hartline’s family and other priorities.

He did say he got a call from the county attorney months after the accident that they were not going to file any charges.

“Lynn was a very forgiving person,” Waechter said. “We didn’t have a desire to see a 90-plus year old man go to jail.”

Waechter said the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office did a phenomenal job collecting evidence and presenting their case.

Turning loss into a mission

Before the Silent Ride, there was a table inside the bike shop scattered with small teddy bears and magnetic stickers promoting a campaign for bicycle safety.

Waechter has now gotten involved bicycle safety awareness since the accident and he brought them the materials.

The organization is called Three Feet Please at 3FeetPlease.org

Bicycle safety is only his part-time job right now, but he hopes to retire soon and devote all his time to running the organization and promotes bicycle safety and laws across the nation.

On Thursday afternoon, Waechter picked up a piece of paper and began reciting the Ride of Silence poem with a group of Cottonwood riders as the sun set over them:

“This afternoon, we number many, but ride as one, to honor those not with us ….”

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