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alembical
05-26-2004, 03:35 PM
Linked from RBR: http://forums.roadbikereview.com/showthread.php?t=6943

Record-setting bicyclist killed in crash
Dan Thomas, a middle school teacher, is remembered for his passion to excel.

ATHLETE: Dan Thomas, a biking enthusiast who taught at Columbus Tustin Middle School, died Monday in an accident in Irvine.


By GREG HARDESTY
The Orange County Register
IRVINE – They were to marry in July in Paris, then bike through Europe on their honeymoon.

Two teachers in love
Fifteen days ago they bought a three-bedroom house in Whispering Glen. At about 5 p.m. Monday, the avid cyclists went for a ride in their new neighborhood.
"Honey, I'm getting cold - I'm gonna put on a jacket," Cathy Ruddell, 44, said as she stopped on a hill on Shady Canyon Drive. Her fiancé, Dan Thomas, 55, rode ahead of her.
As the 30-year veteran teacher and champion street racer returned to rejoin Ruddell, he veered off the shoulder and into the traffic lane.
A 1991 Toyota pickup hit Thomas, police said.
Ruddell, a math and science teacher at Columbus Tustin Middle School - where Thomas also taught - rushed to him.
"Oh, baby," she said.
The woman Thomas had proposed to on Christmas Day felt for a pulse.
Nothing.
Thomas' custom-made, $7,500 silver Serotta road- racing bike lay in pieces, the seat shorn in half. His helmet lay in the weeds.
"The doctor said it happened instantly," Ruddell recalled Tuesday, as students and teachers at Columbus mourned Thomas, who previously taught for 20 years at Foothill High School in Tustin.
"The doctor said that if death could be merciful, his was merciful."
Funeral services are pending. The driver of the pickup, Alfredo Aceves, 32, of Santa Ana, was not injured or cited. An investigation continues.
Thomas, who has taught at Columbus since 1995, wasn't born an uber-cyclist. He is a former runner and cross- country coaching guru who earned his cycling distinction over the last few years as a member of the Veloce Santiago club, affiliated with Santiago Cycling in Tustin.
"He was an extremely kind, soft-spoken person," shop owner Robert Choler recalled. "But he was a tremendous athlete, extremely intense - kind of an obsessive person. When he decided to do something, he would go into it whole hog."
Thomas won seven gold medals at the World Senior Games in St. George, Utah, in 2001 and 2002, and still holds the record for cycling 75 miles to the top of Big Bear - a climb of 12,000 feet - in 5 hours and 12 minutes.
The Orange County native was overweight as a child. As a seventh-grade social-sciences and English teacher at Columbus, Thomas liked to remind his students about the importance of staying active and healthy.
"Dan's zest for life and for fitness and a healthy lifestyle was an example for everyone," said Joanne Mother, counselor for the 830 students at Columbus Tustin Middle School, who were told about his death Tuesday morning.
According to Mother, one student said: "Maybe he's in a better place, where he can be biking all the time."
Open house at Columbus is Thursday. Thomas was preparing to hang up students' journals for the big night, Principal Tim O'Donoghue said.
"Everyone's in kind of shock - it's like losing a friend," O'Donoghue said. "He was a very, very intelligent man ... an exceptional teacher of writing.
"Students saw him as a pretty challenging teacher. He had pretty high standards in his class."
Thomas' high standards also applied to his athletic pursuits.
He excelled at football at Loara High School in Anaheim, and was offered an out- of-state college scholarship.
But he turned the scholarship down to stay near his family, and graduated from California State University, Fullerton, with a master's degree in English.
In 1974, the 6-foot, 185- pound Thomas began a distinguished career at Foothill High School, where he served as chairman of the English department and coached football, track and cross-country.
Twice he was named girls cross-country coach of the year - a statewide honor.
Thomas' son Ryan, 27, recalled a father who loved camping and other outdoor activities.
Ryan's sister, Larisa, now 33, was among family members who would accompany Thomas on fishing trips to Baja California.
Thomas also is survived by two brothers, Craig and Rusty, his father, Bill, and his stepmother, Betty.
Ruddell said she will remember her fiancé as a romantic man who lived a full life.
"He had such an ability to just enjoy every ounce of life," she said. "He would squeeze the juice out of the orange."
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Russ
05-26-2004, 03:42 PM
".... (the driver) was not injured or cited. An investigation continues..."

This is what I constantly hear over and over! I wonder when and if an investigation will ever find anything.

My thougts are for Mr. Thomas and his loved ones.

bostondrunk
05-26-2004, 03:46 PM
Unless I missread, the cyclist in question veered into the road, so I assume it wasn't the car's fault??
Still very sad of course.

BumbleBeeDave
05-26-2004, 03:54 PM
I really hate to disagree, but the article reads . . .

<< As the 30-year veteran teacher and champion street racer returned to rejoin Ruddell, he veered off the shoulder and into the traffic lane.>>

I'm not sure exactly how this driver would be at fault, unless he was speeding or deliberately aimed for Thomas. I agree that this is tragic indeed, but using only the information available in this story, the driver would hardly seem to be to blame.

BBDave