Cyclist seriously injured when hit by SUV during group ride

Matthew Burke, 37, of Augusta, was with a group of people riding on a rural South Carolina road just across the state line when a man in an SUV hit them from behind Friday evening.

"We don't have any long-term prognosis," his brother Paul said Monday.

Burke, an orthopedic surgeon who served in Iraq in 2009, is married and has a 7-month-old daughter, his brother said.

He suffered brain trauma and has been unconscious, said his brother, who spoke to the AJC by telephone from the waiting room of Medical College of Georgia. "It's a very serious situation."

The collision occurred on Beech Island Avenue, a scenic byway that is popular among cyclists in Augusta, in part because of the light traffic.

The driver, Daniel Johnson, 41, lives in the area, said Lance Cpl. Josef Robinson of the South Carolina Highway Patrol.

Johnson told investigators that he was not paying attention while driving, Robinson told the AJC. The corporal, who is a highway patrol spokesman, said the investigators did not tell him what had preoccupied Johnson.

"They just said he was distracted," Robinson said.

Johnson was not arrested and, as of Monday, had not been charged with a crime. The case remains under investigation.

Four other cyclists were hit, too. Robinson didn't know their conditions, but Paul Burke said all had been treated for their wounds and none was hospitalized as of Monday.

The cyclists had departed from an Augusta bike shop for a regularly scheduled ride that leaves at 6:15 p.m.

Matthew Burke was at the back of the pack about half an hour later when the group hit an incline and slowed to a conversational pace, said Randy DuTeau, an avid cyclist who knows Burke and spoke with cyclists who witnessed the incident.

DuTeau, who is the sports development manager for the Augusta Sports Council, is also familiar with the stretch of road where the crash occurred. He described it as two lanes wide with good visibility.

"It's basically a straight shot for, I'm guessing, over a mile," he told the AJC.

Johnson's father, also named Daniel, said he and his family were distraught over what happened.

"It's a terrible situation; we don't know what to do or say," he said. "We just keep praying for [Burke]," he told The Augusta Chronicle.

Cycling is growing in popularity in Augusta. The city recently hosted a half Iron Man triathlon that attracted thousands of competitors.

DuTeau said that has created a growing friction between cyclists out for exercise and drivers who just want to get where they're going.

He said cyclists need to obey the law, and so should drivers.

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