A truck driver who slammed into a group of cyclists, killing five, on a Nevada highway last week has been charged with multiple felonies after it was discovered he had methamphetamine in his system, prosecutors said.
Driver Jordan Alexander Barson of Arizona has been charged with five counts of driving under the influence causing death, one count of driving under the influence causing significant bodily harm and five counts of reckless driving charge resulting in death, according to Clark County District Attorney Steven B Wolfson.
Barson, 45, was arrested Wednesday morning and awaiting his extradition from Mohave County, Ariz., The Nevada Highway Patrol said. It was not immediately clear whether Mr. Barson had a lawyer. There was no response Wednesday afternoon to a phone number and email address listed under his name.
According to the Highway Patrol, Mr. Barson was driving an Isuzu box truck on US 95, about 60 miles south of Las Vegas, on Thursday morning when he approached a group of about 20 cyclists who were being escorted by a Subaru Outback.
The riders, who competed in an annual 130-mile race, had split into two groups – one in front of the Subaru and the other behind, the Highway Patrol said.
Mr Barson struck the slower group behind the Subaru and then hit the Subaru, the highway patrol said.
Seven cyclists were thrown from their bikes. Five died on the highway.
The cyclists killed have been identified by authorities as Erin Michelle Ray, 39, Michael Murray, 57, Aksoy Ahmet, 48, and Thomas Chamberlin Trauger, 57, all of Las Vegas; and Gerrard Nievas, whose age and city of origin were not mentioned.
Another cyclist was hospitalized in critical condition and subsequently upgraded to stable condition. The driver of the Subaru was also taken to a hospital in stable condition.
Mr. Barson, who was not injured, remained at the scene of the accident and spoke to investigators afterwards.
Highway Patrol initially said Barson did not drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. But Mr Wolfson’s office said on Wednesday that Mr Barson had finally found methamphetamine, a highly addictive stimulant, in his system.
“I’m at a loss for words,” Wolfson said in a statement. “I have said hundreds of times, to countless people, choosing to get behind the wheel of a drunk car is unwise. These actions are unacceptable and have consequences. Tragically, this type of reckless behavior left five people dead, several injured and our community in mourning again.
The riders had taken part in an annual tradition: a 130-mile long drive from the M Resort Spa Casino in Henderson, Nevada, through Searchlight to Nipton, Calif., And back again.
The part of the highway where cyclists were impacted has a speed limit of 75 mph. But the highway is generally considered safe for cycling because of its wide shoulder, local cyclists said.
“It’s really disappointing because I’ve been doing this race for the past three years and at that time in the morning there’s no traffic,” said Yash Gokul, team founder. local bike race, who said he knew the cyclists who were killed.
Mr Gokul said he planned to make the trip that day, but canceled to help his daughter with homework remotely.
He said he was not surprised that Barson had been charged with driving under the influence when he struck the cyclists.
“There is nothing there,” Mr. Gokul said. “You saw cyclists coming in for a while, so now it makes sense that he must have been weakened when he hit them.
The news of the accident brought mourning to the local cycling community.
“Everyone is devastated,” Clay Weeks, who works at Pro Cyclery, a Las Vegas bicycle store, said last week. “I hope it opens people’s eyes and makes them more vigilant of cyclists on the road, because things like these happen too often in the community.
Bike rides make up just 1% of all trips in the United States, but cyclists are more prone to crash-related injuries and deaths than people in cars and trucks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that more pedestrians and cyclists were killed in 2018 in the United States than in any year since 1990.
The number of pedestrians killed increased by 3.4% in 2018, to 6,283, and the number of cyclists killed increased by 6.3%, to 857, even as the total number of road fatalities decreased, a declared the agency. On average, around 17 pedestrians and two cyclists were killed in crashes every day.