FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — It started as a ride with a group designed to build community and promote bike safety. But, in a moment, everything changed.
"I was only a few bikes back from crossing into the intersection so I saw everything and could even feel the wind from the truck," said Nick Jones. "It went into the intersection so fast."
He's talking about a tow truck carrying a moving truck that Flagstaff Police say ran a red light and crashed into the group of cyclists Friday.
It happened at the intersection of Butler Avenue and Beaver Street. The crash injured five people and killed 29-year-old Joanna Wheaton, according to police.
"It would be tragic no matter what, but it’s hitting us even harder because this was one of the shining stars of our community," Jones said.
Even without that shining star, the community immediately sprang into action. Business after business now offering to donate proceeds to help the injured.
"I think we’re all in the same boat, just blown away," said Rae Hernandez.
Like many in tight-knit Flagstaff, Hernandez knows people who were seriously hurt and in the hospital.
"They’re going to be healing for a while and they’re going to need help."
The small business owner is spearheading one of the many fundraisers to help, a joint effort that's raised more than $100,000 as of Monday afternoon.
"It doesn’t surprise me, that’s for sure," Hernandez said. "Flagstaff has a way of coming together in a crisis."
It's a crisis that’s ongoing if you ask Nick Jones.
"There’s a huge problem in this country with infrastructure and traffic enforcement is all placed on car convenience instead of pedestrian and cyclist safety," he explained.
The driver of that tow truck, 58-year-old Normand Cloutier, is now charged with causing a death by a moving violation.
Jones hopes this is a wake-up call to reduce speeds and build better bike lanes. His biking community understandably still rattled.
"It’s scary to think about getting back on it right now because I know that nothing has changed systemically since Friday night to make sure something like this is avoided in the future," he said. "And that’s a scary thought."
There are several fundraisers to help all of those impacted by this crash and their long road to recovery:
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