Bicyclist Tony Quinones had only just shaken hands with a fellow cyclist and wished him good luck in this weekend’s community race in an Arizona mountain town when a truck sped into a crowd of bike riders.
Suddenly, Quinones said in an interview Sunday, he was “watching bodies going on top of the hood, bodies going to the left, bodies going to the right” about six minutes after the race had started.
The sounds of breaking and smashing as the truck plowed through the cyclists on Saturday was quickly replaced by their groans of pain — including those of the cyclist Quinones had just met.
Authorities in the small city of Show Low said the unidentified 35-year-old male suspect fled the crash scene in the pickup and was shot and wounded by officers a short time later.
Of the seven cyclists hospitalized, six were in critical condition, and one was in stable condition on Sunday, police said in a statement. The suspect, described as a local resident, was in stable condition, police said.
Quinones, 55, said the man he had met before the race was a fellow New Mexican and that blood was flowing from his head and his nose after the pickup hit him.
“He’s got a compound fracture, and I’m just saying, ‘Hey man keep breathing, keep breathing. Help’s on its way. Hey man, you’re going to be OK.'” Quinones said. “I mean, that’s just insane. It’s not just one. There’s like six, seven, eight other guys like who are all around doing the same thing.”
Authorities were trying to determine why the man driving the truck rammed into the group of cyclists participating in the annual 58-mile (93-kilometer) Bike the Bluff race that drew hundreds of participants. He was shot by police nearby outside a hardware store in Show Low, which is about a three-hour drive northeast of Phoenix.
“We don’t know the motivation,” said Show Low city spokeswoman Grace Payne.
Quinones said some cyclists wondered at first whether the driver of the truck had fallen asleep at the wheel. But Quinones said he saw the man accelerate toward the cyclists.
“He went right at us,” he said.
Witnesses said helmets, shoes and crumpled and broken bicycles were strewn across the street after the crash, and a tire was wedged into the grill of the truck that rammed the cyclists at about 7:25 a.m. in downtown Show Low.
“I just remember, you know, this is surreal,” Quinones said. “I can’t believe I just shook this guy’s hand and we wished each other luck, and now I’m watching him with blood all over the place. And not a little blood. It wasn’t trickling out. There’s like a pool of blood.”
The truck had damage to its top and sides and a bullet hole in a window.
“This has been a horrible event,” police spokeswoman Kristine Sleighter said in a statement. “Our community is shocked at this incident and our hearts and prayers are with the injured and their families at this time.”
After the truck’s driver hit a telephone pole, cyclists ran up to the truck and started pounding on the windows, screaming at the driver to get out. Instead of stopping, Quinones said the driver hit the accelerator and backed out, drove down the road, made a U-turn and then headed back toward the cyclists but did not hit them again and drove away.
Payne said the driver did not comply when officers tried to arrest him, but the circumstances of the shooting were not immediately made public.
Witte reported from Annapolis, Maryland.