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St. Petersburg city council chairwoman's crash ruled an accident

ST. PETERSBURG — A police investigation confirmed Tuesday that the bicycle crash that seriously injured City Council chairwoman Leslie Curran was an accident.

Curran, 54, was thrown from her bike early Monday morning while riding on Fairway Avenue S, police said. She was drafting behind cyclist Brian Wilder when she was injured about 7:40 a.m.

Witnesses told St. Petersburg police that Curran's front tire appeared to touch the rear tire of Wilder, who rode ahead of her.

"The two witnesses saw her front handlebars wobble, and then she crashed in the roadway," said police spokesman Bill Proffitt.

Another bicyclist, Peter Dilts II, 63, wrecked when he ran into her fallen bike. "He really had no time to react," Proffitt said.

St. Petersburg police traffic homicide investigator Mike Jockers finished his investigation Tuesday after speaking to Dilts and another bicyclist. The only witness yet to be interviewed is Curran herself, who remained hospitalized Tuesday.

She was wearing a helmet when she thrown onto the pavement, police said. But Curran still suffered a serious enough head injury that she was placed in the intensive care unit of Bayfront Medical Center after the accident, according to council members. Curran was conscious after the accident but did not speak, Wilder said.

There was no official update on her condition Tuesday. Mayor Bill Foster said he was briefed but would not make that information public. Curran's family could not be reached for comment.

But the mayor did say that he expects Curran, a mother of three, to return to the council. He doesn't know when, though.

"We anticipate her full recovery and return," Foster said, "and we'll be excited when that moment occurs."

Wilder said Curran was being treated for a severe concussion. Council members said she was placed in a medically induced coma.

Dr. Ferdinand Richards III, an emergency medicine physician at Tampa General Hospital, said that kind of treatment is usually aimed at a significant head injury. He compared it to using an ice pack to treat a sprained ankle before it swells.

"You're trying to slow the process of bruising, the swelling and inflammation, to make it less severe," he said.

Wilder, 59, said the pair were riding into a strong headwind at an estimated 19 mph, with Curran drafting close behind him.

That's a pretty brisk clip, said Dr. Richards, himself an avid bicyclist. He said Tampa General sees a lot of bicyclists injured riding along nearby Bayshore Boulevard. It's critical that bicyclists wear helmets, he said, but that's still no guarantee against serious injury, not when a rider comes to a sudden, hard stop.

"Just think of the position you're in," he said. "You're not protected at all. If you come to a stop you're going over the bike and your head is one of the first things to hit.

"There's no way, at that rate of speed, you can brace yourself for the impact. You can't even get your arms out in front of you."

Jamal Thalji can be reached at thalji@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8472.

St. Petersburg city council chairwoman's crash ruled an accident 08/31/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 31, 2010 9:22pm]
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