Cape Coral officials expressed sympathy Tuesday for the family and friends of a bicyclist who was fatally injured during the 22nd annual Tour de Cape.
James J. Heneghan, 69, of 5408 S.W. 25th Place, died Sunday afternoon at Lee Memorial Hospital, where he was taken following the morning accident.
City Manager John Szerlag released the following in a statement:
"The city of Cape Coral, its partners and volunteers who work together to host the annual Tour de Cape bicycle ride wish to express our condolences to the family of James Heneghan. (Heneghan) died following a tragic accident that occurred during the event on Sunday.
"In the 22-year history of the Tour de Cape, we have never experienced a tragedy of this level. This tragic accident is heartbreaking for everyone associated with the event, and our thoughts and prayers are with the family members and friends of James Heneghan."
At 10:04 a.m., Heneghan was riding a Kuota bicycle eastbound on Cape Coral Parkway West when his front tire struck the rear tire of a Kestrel bicycle that was in front of him in the 2800 block, according to a Cape police report.
Heneghan and the other bicyclist were participating in Tour de Cape.
Due to the collision, Heneghan lost control and was ejected, police reported. He struck his head on the roadway and sustained life-threatening injuries.
Heneghan was airlifted to the hospital, where he later died.
The operator of the Kestrel, John H. Pokorny, 65, of 2104 S.W. 30th Terrace was not injured in the accident, according to the report.
Police determined that Heneghan did not have his helmet on during the incident, that he had taken it off several minutes prior to the crash.
There were no clues or signs of impairment in the accident.
Lonnie Mac Peek, an experienced cyclist from Lehigh Acres, was also a participant in the Tour de Cape. He took part in the 30-mile route Sunday.
He said it was within the last five miles of his route that he came upon several police vehicles blocking the road and diverting traffic to the left.
"I saw the bicycle in the grass median," Mac Peek said. "As I looked back behind me, I saw a white shirt and a big puddle of blood."
Heneghan had already been airlifted from the scene.
Mac Peek said he could not understand how Heneghan expected to brake effectively with his helmet in hand. Mac Peek stops when he takes his off.
"If the helmet's too hot, I always pull over, take it off and rest 15 minutes," he said, adding that he has bumped tires with other bicyclists before.
"My front tire hit the back tire of someone else's bike and I went over the handle bars," Mac Peek said.
The incident happened several years ago during a casual ride.
"I landed on gravel on the side of the road," he said, adding that he was wearing a bike helmet at the time. "It would have been a lot worse."
Mac Peek suggested all bicyclists wear a helmet.
"Always ride with a helmet - always keep a safe distance," he said.
"Just watch in front of you because the gap can close between you and the front rider before you know it," Mac Peek said.