Tragedy on King's Mtn
|[Please note that the following was written immediately after the incident, and
my observations of how the accident actually happened weren't quite correct...at the bottom I have
appended some additional information that was learned later on. --Mike--]
morning, as usual, I did my 7:45am ride, which takes me up King's Mtn
road. But it certainly wasn't an "as usual" ride, as I had a difficult
sleeping last night, not knowing if one of my employees who had the day off
yesterday was the person killed by a car on King's Mtn road yesterday.
I had been told that the accident scene was below the park entrance, and
figured I knew exactly where it must be...that last corner just before the
road straightens out below the park. That turned out not to be the case.
In fact, it was much further down the road than that, just below the first
hairpin/creek crossing in what is usually one of the prettier stretches
where one first sees deer and hears the water in the creek below.
The police had marked the pavement with very clear indications of the
sequence of events. From what I could tell, the cyclist had been struck
from behind while descending, with the initial point of impact about four
inches from the edge of the road. Cyclist and car then swerved together to
the left, crossing the road and headed down the embankment on the opposite
side of the initial impact. Tree trunks are very clearly marked with the
locations of where the car hit them, and on the pavement, there are arrows
for "car" and "bike." I am told that the car had landed on top
There was no evidence of blood, but there were pieces of broken car glass
and reflectors, as well as two different-branded beer cans. Quite
possibly the beer cans are unrelated, as people throw a lot of trash out
their car windows on the way home from the park. For what it's worth, both
cans were nearly empty.
But there was, partially hidden, a "Death Ride '98" headband, as well as a
wrapper from a 10cc syringe...both grim reminders that something physical,
real and awful had happened here. I don't know why, but I removed the
headband and wrapper from the scene and climbed back up the embankment to my
bike. I found it impossible to continue...I rode up as far as the hairpin
and then turned around, inadvertently re-living the cyclists last moments of
life. And on the way down I passed a street sweeper, on its usual
once-monthly run up the hill, attempting to sweep clean the evidence of what
had happened just the day before. Not intentionally so...as I said, this is
its regular run (I've seen it often before), and I noticed that the paint
remained on the roadway even afterwards. Eventually it will fade away, just
as the arrows from century rides do, and after even more time the damage to
the trees will recover as well.
Also on the way down, I suddenly reflected upon the irony of that headband
and what it said.
And I'll recover as well, but it won't be today, and maybe not tomorrow.
Because even though finding that headband assured me it wasn't someone from
our shop, you just can't escape the thought that somebody didn't return from
a ride yesterday. Somebody maybe didn't come home to a wife or husband, or
kids, or parents, or show up at their job this morning.
At some point I'll probably go back there and nail the headband to one of
those two trees.
|Here's where the accident happened,
with markings on the road showing how the vehicle crossed over
into oncoming traffic (the bike). For those who know the
road, this is just below the very first hairpin, where it crosses
||More grim reminders, still clearly
visible on the roadway as of 6/13/99, nearly a year after the
accident. The red marks on the tree indicate where the
vehicle came to rest, pinning the cyclist underneath.
8/14/98- Have learned that the rider's name was Brad Nohejl, and that he was doing a
lunchtime ride from his job at Informix. He had a wife and two kids, none of whom
knew what happened until many hours later, since he hadn't carried any ID whatsoever with
Also note that my analysis of the accident was incorrect, as the Sheriff's report has
the cyclist heading up the hill and the car apparently losing control going down the hill
after hitting or trying to avoid a rock on the right-hand side of the road, causing it to
careen into the oncoming lane and the unfortunate cyclist. It appears that the
cyclist, although riding exactly where he should, at the right-hand edge of the right
lane, was in exactly the wrong place at exactly the wrong time, and had no chance to do
anything to avoid the accident.
9/5/98 The marks on the road still seem as strong as the day after the accident, and
someone has placed some flowers at the base of the tree that marks the spot where the
cyclist died. A cross has been placed on the tree as well. I still ride past
it twice per week.
9/10/98 King's Mtn Road is a 4.3 mile climb, through a heavily wooded area, and it's not
that infrequent that you see a deer at the side of the road...maybe once a month or so.
Today a deer stood at the exact spot of the accident...right in front of the tree
which has become a small shrine. Quite a coincidence.
11/25/98 Yesterday, descending King's Mtn just above the accident site, I
came across first flares, then a car that had apparently skidded out in a
turn and crashed into a tree in the opposite lane...a reminder of how even
if you have your "own" lane all to yourself, you're still at the
mercy of 2,000 pound projectiles being piloted beyond the capabilities of
their owner. Please keep your ears open...they're the best (and sometimes
the only) early-warning system you've got! And yes, that means no
Last updated 05/06/05