Tuesday, June 3, 2003

Bike death poses unique problem

Amelia still deciding whether to prosecute in sidewalk crash

By Karen Vance
Enquirer contributor

AMELIA - A bicycle brought death to Bill Abrams.

The 54-year-old Amelia man was killed May 19 when he was struck by a bicycle ridden by Greg Hamblin Jr. of Winchester.

"Everything had to go completely wrong for this to happen," said Amelia police chief Greg Homer . "Under normal circumstances, you bump heads, and you both brush yourselves off and get up."

Preliminary autopsy reports indicate Abrams died of head injuries, but police and prosecutors are waiting for a completed report before deciding whether charges are appropriate against Hamblin, Homer said.

"To my knowledge there are no state statutes prohibiting bikes from traveling on the sidewalk," said Assistant Clermont County Prosecutor Tony Brock.

Hamblin, who was an acquaintance of Abrams, borrowed a bicycle from a friend to go from the Amelia home he was staying at to work in Eastgate earlier in the day.

The 20-year-old's mother went to pick him up at the end of his shift, but the two couldn't pack the bicycle into the car. Instead, Hamblin's mother followed him back to Amelia, said Amelia Police Officer Janice Lovins, the first officer on the scene.

When they reached the village, Hamblin's mother continued home, believing he'd be safe riding on the sidewalk, Lovins said.

Amelia does not have an ordinance prohibiting bicyclists from the sidewalk, even in business areas, Homer said.

The village has not considered a law in the past, because officials never had complaints about bicyclists on the sidewalk or reports of collisions.

But at about 10:30 p.m. in front of 139 W. Main St., the eastbound Hamblin struck the 295-pound Abrams with the 10-speed mountain bike. Hamblin flew over the handlebars, the two butted heads and Abrams struck the pavement, according to police reports.

Police believe Hamblin was looking down just before the accident to avoid getting rain on his eyeglasses. The accident happened between two streetlights and across the street from a third, Lovins said.

Abrams, who never regained consciousness, was pronounced dead at 11:08 p.m. by the AirCare flight doctor at a landing zone for the helicopter around the corner, according to reports.

Ohio law requires bicyclists to yield the right of way to pedestrians on sidewalks. And bikes used after dark must have a white front light that illuminates for 500 feet and a red light in back illuminating for 350 feet, Lovins said.

"The front light may have prevented the accident. Billy may have seen it and gotten out of the way," Lovins said.

Anna Waddell , Abrams' niece who lives in Fairfield, said her family considers it to be a freak accident.

"It was just one of those tragic things. He will definitely be missed. It was a shock," said Waddell, who used to visit the Amelia man with her mother, Abrams' only sister.

Enquirer reporter Marie McCain contributed. E-mail kvance@fuse.net

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