SAN FRANCISCO, CA (BRAIN) — A San Francisco man is set to become one of the few bicyclists in the country to face felony manslaughter charges, for running into an elderly pedestrian in a busy intersection last March.
The pedestrian, 71-year-old Sutchi Hui, died of head injuries four days after the accident in the Castro neighborhood.
A witness testified at a court hearing this week that cyclist Chris Bucchere had sped through several red lights prior to the accident; reportedly, Bucchere's ride was recorded on the social fitness site Strava.com, which showed he was traveling about 35 mph at the time of the accident.
A Superior Court judge ruled Thursday that Bucchere should be tried for felony gross vehicular manslaughter, rejecting a defense request that the charge be reduced to a misdemeanor. If convicted, Bucchere could face a maximum of six years in prison.
"I hope this case serves as a reminder to all that there are life-altering consequences to not following the rules of the road," District Attorney George Gascon told LA Times.com.
Bucchere's lawyer has said the cyclist was "devastated” by the accident but doesn’t believe he broke any laws.
Video recording of the incident was shown at the hearing. Prosecutors said the video showed Bucchere had not slowed prior to the collision; Bucchere's lawyer said the video showed Hui stepped into the intersection before the light changed.
Gascon said it’s the first time a California cyclist has been charged with felony vehicular manslaughter.
“It was really (Bucchere's) need for speed,” Gascon told reporters. “He was basically bent on beating his own record, he was bragging about it.”
While felony charges in bike-pedestrian accidents may be rare, fatal collisions are not. In the same month as the Bucchere/Hui collision, a 23-year-old San Francisco cyclist pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter charge after a collision that led to the death of a 68-year-old man.