Driver Who Hit, Killed Bicyclist to Face Criminal Charges

Driver Who Hit, Killed Bicyclist to Face Criminal Charges

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John Daley Reporting"Any time somebody rear-ends somebody else and kills them, no matter what they are driving, there ought to be some penalty for that."

The death of a popular young bicyclist in Big Cottonwood Canyon ends in criminal charges. The accident happened near the Solitude ski resort, and the driver charged is the resort owner's wife.

For those who ride bikes in Utah, the story of Josie Johnson has become a rallying cry. Every year in Utah, on average, seven bicyclists are killed when hit by cars--often struck from behind. And prosecutors say that's exactly what happened in this case.

Driver Who Hit, Killed Bicyclist to Face Criminal Charges

The cause of the accident is mystery. The weather was sunny and dry and the road was clear. Josie Johnson was riding eastbound, uphill, a half mile west of the first entrance to the Solitude Ski Resort when she was hit from behind by an SUV, and died from head injuries.

Today, the driver of the car, 67-year-old Elizabeth Deseelhorst, wife of Solitude owner Gary Deseelhorst, was charged with negligent homicide.

Bob Stott, Salt Lake Co. District Attorney's Office: "The bicycle at the time of the incident was on the far right hand side of the road, and the vehicle at the time of the collision, right tires were touching the shoulder of the road."

Yesterday bicyclists rallied on Capitol Hill to pass a new, tougher bike safety law, which would require cars to give bikes a three-foot berth unless the road is too narrow.

Richard Johnson, Josie Johnson's Father: "Extraordinary situation because the road where she was hit was the safest part of the canyon with two lanes and so forth, so it's a real sad thing."

Driver Who Hit, Killed Bicyclist to Face Criminal Charges

According to court documents filed today, Johnson was way over on the right side of the road, which has two lanes going east. Deseelhorst's car hit Johnson in the middle of the car and the wheels were touching the gravel shoulder.

Ken Johnson, Josie Johnson's Brother: "Josie was riding on the road where she was supposed to be. Certainly she had a right to be there. And in this case, the road had plenty clearance to allow a motorist to go by."

Josie Johnson's brother says both the charges and the passage of the new law up on Capitol Hill would make Utah's roads safer and be a proper tribute to his sister.

Ken Johnson, Josie Johnson's Brother: “That would be a great legacy as we say goodbye to Josie.”

We left messages for Betsy Deseelhorst's attorney today; our calls were not returned. Prosecutors say there were no drugs or alcohol involved in this case. This charge is a Class A misdemeanor. If convicted the driver faces a year in prison.

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