ON BIKE CULTURE IN EUGENE | Fine blogging since 2010 (with periodic long breaks)
I never intended this blog to be journalism. It was just supposed to be silliness. But I haven’t been able to shake the wreck on River Road this past Monday — in which Mingo Pelkey, riding her bike, was hit by a car and killed.
What I know about how this crash happened is still sketchy, frankly. I’ve read some different things in the comments on the TV news websites — one or two from people who say they witnessed the crash. Of course, it’s hard to know how reliable an anonymous comment on a TV news website is. Or here, actually.
So I did want to follow up on a comment that appeared on my original post about this. A commenter using the handle “sickened” said this was the third time in the past couple of months that the motorist who hit Pelkey has been involved in a traffic accident.
I spent a little time trying to verify this. I will say that “sickened” has turned out to be reliable — as far as I can check out the story.
The police are not saying much about any of this right now. But several e-mails, a couple of phone calls and eight bucks later, I now have a copy of EPD’s report on a second accident this summer involving said motorist, James Robert Gleich, 53, of Springfield.
This other accident happened at 3:14 p.m. on July 9 on Martin Luther King Boulevard, about six weeks before he hit Pelkey.
Gleich was driving a 2003 Nissan 350Z, a two-seat sports car. Heading east on MLK, he crashed into the side of a vintage BMW, as the Beemer was pulling out of the BMW dealership and turning left (west) onto MLK.
A passenger in the BMW says Gleich seemed to accelerate right into the accident.
No one was cited, but Gleich had been taken to the hospital by paramedics before the police officer arrived on the scene. According to the report the officer didn’t arrive until nearly an hour after the accident. Though it appears the officer interviewed Gleich sometime later.
The accident was bad enough that both vehicles had to be towed. Gleich’s airbag deployed. The vintage BMW was pushed across about a lane of traffic by the impact. It was totaled.
I’m offering this simply for what it is. Two accidents in six weeks could possibly mean nothing. Possibly. Or it could mean something was very wrong.
As for the third accident, that’s still hearsay for me at this point. But I’m still trying to confirm it.
The police won’t give me an accident report based on the name of a motorist involved. Privacy laws, they tell me, prevent that. But the report itself is public record, and they will give it to me if I can identify the accident in question some other way, by the date and location, say. This is information I would like to track down.
So if anyone knows a little bird in the police department or otherwise has information about this alleged third accident, I’m all ears. I’d love to get an e-mail with a date/time/location. I’ve got another eight bucks in my pocket all ready to go.
No, I’m not doing traditional journalism here. Rather than try to gather bunches of information and then write up a “big” story, I’ll just dribble things out as I learn them.
And I don’t care if any of this ends up being my “scoop.” If any of the TV stations or the Eugene Weekly or the R-G or any other journalists in town were to start digging on this story, too, I say go for it. I just want the truth to come out.
These posts have been getting a lot more hits than usual, and I hope that people can add more pieces to this story — a sort of experiment in community journalism.
So why is this important? Why do we care how many traffic accidents this guy has been in? Look, I’m not a militant “cars suck” kind of person. I own a car. I drive it — not everyday, but a couple of times a week.
But dangerous people should be off the road. Driving a car is no less a responsibility than owning a gun. A moment of careless inattention or an outburst of reckless anger, and an innocent person is dead.
It’s important that we all know the facts about what led to Mingo Pelkey being killed. Then we can decide for ourselves whether our public servants are following through on this in an appropriate way.
If we don’t agree with what they do, then we can try to harass them into line. I think that anyone who rides a bike around town should have an interest in this case.
That said, from what I’ve been able to glean so far, I think the police are looking into this pretty carefully. I actually suspect that their silence on the facts of the case is a sign they are viewing this possibly as a crime, not just an accident. That’s only my gut feeling at this point. Eventually it will be up to the district attorney to decide if there are charges and what they are.
But I don’t think it’s best to simply rely on what the police or prosecutors or any of the other Peoples of Officialdom tell us.
That’s why I think we all should try to figure out more about what happened.
On one final note, I hear that nearly 700 people turned out for Pelkey’s memorial service at the Hult Center on Saturday. By the way, if you missed her obituary last week in the R-G, it’s here (scroll down about half way).
* * *
For a list of all posts about the Mingo Pelkey case, go here.