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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cross-country bicyclist killed in accident

The Belleville News-Democrat reports that a 65-year-old man who was riding his bicycle from California to Washington, D.C., to protest government bailouts was killed Sunday by a suspected drunken driver in a hit-and-run crash on U.S. 50 near Carlyle, Ill.

Jim Gafney left his home in Chula Vista, Calif., on April 27 for his "Mad As Hell Bike Ride Across U.S." with the goal of hand-delivering a petition opposing government bailouts to lawmakers sometime in July. Gafney had completed about two-thirds of his 3,000-mile ride, and collected about 500 signatures, before he was killed about 12:40 a.m. Sunday.

The newspaper reported Gafney spent Saturday near Lebanon, and most likely was riding at night to avoid the heat. He was on U.S. 50 at Diamond Springs Road -- about 60 miles east of St. Louis -- when he was struck by a 1997 Nissan Altima driven by Leon K. Marcum, 27, of Centralia, according to Illinois State Police.

Marcum told police he was driving over a hill and saw Gafney, but was not able to stop. He left the scene and later was arrested near Sandoval.Marcum was charged with aggravated DUI, leaving the scene of a fatal crash and failure to reduce speed. He was being held Wednesday at the Clinton County Jail on $100,000 bail.

The San Diego Union-Tribune account of the accident also quoted Illinois State Police Master Sgt. Chris Trame as saying U.S. 50 in that area is just two lanes with no shoulder, Trame said. He described it as “pretty isolated” and “not well lit.”

“We were so worried. We begged him not to go But he had a mission and he was determined to make that dream come true," Gafney's daughter, Colleen Uhden of Temecula, Calif., told the Union-Tribune about her father's decision to ride in the middle of the night instead of throu

The Southwest Free Press, a publication that was supporting Gafney's ride, hopes to complete Gafney's goal of getting 500 to 1,000 bicyclists to ride to Washington and hand-deliver the petition against the bailout to lawmakers.

Here's the last video Gafney posted on YouTube before he died:

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