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Monday, October 12, 2015

Memphis experiences its third death of a cyclist in 2015

Memphis experiences its third death of a cyclist in 2015
By:  Michael Lander

Ghost bikes have become a way to remember the life of
someone who has died while cycling and they can serve
as a powerful statement and a vivid reminder that more
can and should be done to make cycling safer for every-
one.  (Photo By:  Michael Browne for UrbanVelo.org)


Another cyclist has died in Memphis.  The latest death was that of 26-year-old Justin D. Townsend.

Townsend was riding his bicycle when he was run over and killed early Friday morning, Oct. 9, in a hit-and-run crash not far from his North Memphis home.

This fatal crash happened at 12:33 a.m. at Thomas and Tenn. 300, which is a four-lane divided highway between Interstate 40 and Thomas.

Townsend’s body was reportedly found under the overpass located near mile marker 16. 

The vehicle that hit him was apparently heading north on Thomas, at the 101 connector, when the driver hit Townsend who was riding northbound on the east side of the roadway in the emergency lane.

The driver, Antrone D. Williams, 30, of Memphis fled the accident without stopping and Townsend was pronounced dead at the scene. 

Williams was arrested on Monday, October 12, following a 
Crime Stoppers tip that led Memphis Police investigators to the damaged vehicle that was involved in this hit-and-run incident.

When talking with Memphis Police investigators, Williams claimed that Townsend swerved into his lane of traffic and that he then struck the back tire of his bicycle, which caused Townsend to fly up and hit the windshield of his vehicle. 

He admitted to investigators that he did not stop to check on Townsend following the incident because he was scared.

Williams in now facing charges of vehicular homicide, leaving the scene of an accident, and driving without either a license or insurance.

Townsend is the third cyclist who has been struck and killed on Memphis area streets so far this year.  The other two were Zachary Walls and Eric Dyrell Taylor.  

Walls was struck and killed in the
Binghamton neighborhood at the intersection of Sam Cooper and Tillman on Monday, March 9, 2015.  Like Townsend, Taylor was also killed by a hit-and-run driver, who was riding on the 3300 block of New Getwell Road near Winchester on Feb. 25.  Click here for more information on their deaths.

Townsend's death is the sixth that the Memphis area has seen since 2010.  The one prior to that of Walls and Taylor occurred in July 2014 at U.S. Hwy 61 and Star Landing Rd in Desoto County in Mississippi.

While the circumstances and details surrounding these cycling-related fatalities may have been different, they did all share at least one thing in common with one another.  All of these cyclists were riding at night when poor visibility may have been a contributing factor, especially for Walls who was also riding while it was raining.

All of these deadly accidents are a sad and tragic reminder of some of the dangers that cyclists can face any time that they ride, and it further emphasizes the need for cyclists to remain vigilant, especially when riding at night or in less than ideal conditions.

Even though accidents cannot always be avoided, cyclists can take precautions to help minimize some of the risks that are involved, most notably, having bikes that are equipped with lights on the front and back, with reflectors, by wearing bright and reflective clothing, and by choosing alternative roadways that do not have high volumes of traffic with vehicles traveling at excessively high rates of speed.

Here is a link with some safety tips that cyclists might find especially helpful:  http://memphiscyclist.com/html/safetytips.html.

Townsend was originally from San Jose, Calif. and he moved to Memphis in 1998.  He was a graduate of Millington Central High School and attended Southwest Tennessee Community College from 2013 to 2014.  His funeral service will be held at R.S. Lewis & Sons Funeral Home at 374 Vance Ave. in Memphis.

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