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UTAH COUNTY -- Five bicyclists were injured during a race when the driver of an SUV in front of them slammed on the brakes to avoid another vehicle.
The accident happened around 9:30 a.m. Saturday on State Road 92 near Timpanogos Cave in American Fork Canyon during the annual 1,000 Warriors charity bike race.
Three riders were sent to the hospital. One, Dave Collins, was in very critical condition. As of late Saturday night, friends tell us Collins had been through two surgeries and was doing a little better. He was cut from his jugular to his sternum and lost a lot of blood at the scene.
It was a very traumatic scene for those who went by.
The other two injured bikers, Steve Beck and Mike Skousen, are expected to be OK. Friends say Skousen has been released from the hospital and Beck should be released Sunday. Two others received only minor injuries.
The five riders had been looking forward to Saturday's race. They're all part of Red Mountain Brumby's, a cycling club based in Mesa, Ariz. Forty five of them made the trip to Utah, including Collins.
"He's strong and he leads the pack often. He's cycled thousands of miles," said a friend, John Beck, whose son was injured in the race.
Collins took the brunt of the impact in the crash. According to the Utah Highway Patrol, the driver of an SUV slammed on its brakes to avoid hitting a vehicle pulling a trailer in the opposite lane. Collins and Steven Beck had no time to slow down and crashed into the SUV. Three other riders wrecked while trying to avoid the vehicle.
Trooper Nathan Powell said, "Coming down the hill in this type of event they can reach speeds of anywhere from 35 to 55 miles per hour."
Collins went through the back window of the SUV, cutting his jugular, breaking his jaw and damaging a nerve in his shoulder. Friends credit several first responders, including two EMT-trained racers, and a former military nurse for keeping him alive at the scene.
John Beck said, "It's going to be a long haul for Dave, and we're praying for him to pull through."
Canyon wasn't closed
Witnesses expressed concern that the canyon wasn't closed for the race and that there wasn't signage warning drivers. Race organizer Rick Bennett says they tried to do just that.
"We asked UDOT to close the canyon and they declined," he said.
The Utah Department of Transportation confirms that, adding race officials approached them only days ago and with conflicting dates for the race.
UDOT's Scott Thompson said, "We did not want to take away the activity for all the recreational users trying to get through the canyon."
1,000 Warriors event
The 1,000 Warriors bike ride is an annual event that raises money for scholarships for wounded war veterans and the children of veterans killed in action. It is held in conjunction with but is not related to the Tour of Utah.
Participants began Saturday's event at 6 a.m. in Park City. The race was briefly stopped to allow a medical helicopter to land. It resumed with riders crossing the finish line at Snowbird.
An investigation is ongoing and UHP doesn't know if any charges will be filed.