Distracted driver crashes into pack of cyclists, killing woman

Bright sun, distraction inside car caused crash, driver tells police

DAVIE, Fla. – A distracted driver crashed her car into a pack of cyclists early Sunday along State Road 84 in Davie, killing one woman and seriously injuring a man, authorities said.

Sgt. Mark Leone, a spokesman for the Davie Police Department, said the crash happened around 8:30 a.m. near Southwest 148th Avenue. A group of about 14 bike riders were traveling east along the roadway when some of them were struck by the 2012 Honda Fit.

Paramedics transported the victims to Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale. Denise Marsh, 53, died at the hospital, while Carlos Rodriguez, 62, is listed in critical condition. Rodriguez underwent surgery at the hospital, Leone said.

Police officers attend to the driver after the crash. Photo courtesy of Antonio Suarez.

Leone said three cyclists suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Edgar Reyes, 48,  Maria Bautista, 56, and John Beitz, 49, were listed in stable condition. A 14-year-old boy, who was not identified, suffered a minor injury.

Leone said the driver, 33-year-old Nicole Vanderweit, stayed at the scene of the crash and is cooperating with investigators.

"We do not believe that speed, alcohol or drugs are a factor," Leone said. "(The driver) did say that she was distracted by something in her vehicle. We're unsure of what it was. That, coupled with the sun shining directly down the road at a very low spot at that time of the morning, is something that we’re investigating as causes of this crash."

The driver came up behind the group of cyclists, but she said she did not see them before she struck them.

"She felt the impact and swerved off the road," Leone said.

The cyclists were part of a group, Cycling Family Broward, that rides in the Davie area on weekends, although the group usually rides in much larger numbers.

"They get together on the weekends and travel together. In the area there is not a designated bike lane, it’s a share the road situation," Leone said.

Davie police shut down State Road 84 from Interstate 75 to Southwest 148th Avenue while officers investigated the crash. The road reopened around 1:30 p.m.

Leone said he did not believe the woman was texting or using her phone at the time of crash. Leone stressed that drivers must stay attentive to the road to avoid crashes.

"As we see here, it only takes that one second of distraction for a fatal accident to occur," Leone said.