Anne Davis and Laura Stark set out for a bike trip from Virginia to Oregon in late May.
They rode for weeks with a group of about 25 other cyclists who are members of Bike and Build, a nonprofit that raises awareness and money for affordable housing.
On Wednesday evening, Davis was killed and Stark was seriously injured after they were struck from behind by a sedan on U.S. 26 outside Idaho Falls. They had nearly completed a 79-mile day that saw them climb over steep mountain passes from Jackson, Wyo., and into Idaho Falls.
Davis, 22, from Richmond, Va., and Stark, 26, of Garden City, Mich., had been riding at the rear of the group when the collision occurred at about 6:20 p.m., said Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Bryan Lovell.
Stark remained in critical condition at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center on Thursday evening, hospital spokeswoman Coleen Niemann said. Davis died after reaching the hospital Wednesday.
Patricia Beyer, 33, of Idaho Falls, was driving a 2005 Chevrolet Malibu westbound and struck the two women near the highway’s intersection with 75th East, between Idaho Falls and Ririe, Lovell said.
Investigators were continuing to examine the cause of the crash, he said, including whether all parties were obeying the rules of the road.
Martha Johnson, who lives next to the highway where the crash occurred, said she heard “a loud crash and screaming, and I automatically knew something was bad.”
As she ran toward the scene and called 911, she saw “blood all over” and “bikes in knots,” right in the middle of her driveway. Other members of the cycling group had turned and were “hysterical,” Johnson said.
Motorists who stopped to help, including two doctors and two nurses, were administering first aid when emergency personnel arrived, Lovell said. Lovell was also on scene, stopping on his way home from work.
Davis and Stark were transported by ground ambulance to EIRMC. The driver, Beyer, also was transported by ambulance to EIRMC, treated for minor injuries and released, Lovell said.
Both Davis and Stark were wearing helmets, and the group had been riding on the shoulder, Lovell said. Officials said no other cyclists were hurt.
The speed limit in the area of the crash is 65 mph and the highway is four lanes, with a shoulder at least 3 feet wide on both sides. There was scant evidence Thursday of the high-speed collision less than 24 hours prior. A patch of blood and the scraped-up valve from a cycling hydration pack was all that remained. There were no visible skid marks from the Malibu.
Large groups of young adults with Bike and Build ride across the country each summer, taking several different routes and stopping at a handful of cities along the way to help out with affordable housing projects. The group was scheduled to spend two days in Idaho Falls helping out with a Habitat for Humanity project, said Habitat’s local executive director Karen Lansing.
Lansing said she had told the group to skip the project and “just worry about each other.” They were being hosted at First Presbyterian Church downtown, and it was not known Thursday if any or all of the group would continue with their trip toward Cannon Beach, Ore. Pastor Cathy Chisholm said the church has enjoyed hosting the Bike and Build groups for about a dozen years, letting them camp out in the church and hosting a potluck one night.
“People need to know that these young people are pretty special individuals,” Lansing said. “They ride their bicycles to bring awareness for affordable housing. They raise money. It’s a very big commitment that they make, and it’s unusual for people in their early 20s to be so engaged in an issue like this. They’re amazing people.”
In a statement posted online Thursday, Bike and Build said Davis recently graduated from the College of William & Mary in Virginia. Bike and Build staff declined to comment Thursday.
“She brought a wealth of goodness to B&B, having completed service trips, been heavily involved in student organizations at William & Mary, and even previously rode in a charitable bike tour,” the group wrote.
The cycling fatality is the fourth for the Philadelphia-based organization. Two women and a man were struck from behind and killed by cars over the last six years on Bike and Build trips. According to its website, the organization has instituted strict rider safety training and requires them to wear special reflective equipment.
In a biography recently posted on the Bike and Build website, Stark said she graduated from Central Michigan University with a biology degree and was working as a nursing assistant. She said she was excited to take on a 4,000-mile ride across the country, and hoped to “spread awareness” about homelessness and affordable housing in the U.S.
In her online biography, Davis said she was “all about social justice, frolicking outdoors, ice cream, people power and seizing new adventures.” Prior to a 120-mile, multi-day charity ride last summer, she “had never biked more than a leisurely ride to the park…”
Before this summer’s trip, she wrote, she had never been west of Kentucky. Davis said she was nervous about such a big ride, and several times doubted whether she could do it.
“But whenever these doubts start to creep into my thoughts, I focus my attention on the purpose: immersing myself in so many parts of the country I’ve never seen before in a new way, appreciating the natural beauty and new community I hope to gain … And then I think, bring it on!”