GALVESTON — A woman has been charged in connection with a collision that killed a man riding his bicycle on the island’s west end earlier this year.

Melissa Malin Smith, 68, of Dickinson was indicted on a charge of manslaughter. She turned herself in to authorities Monday afternoon before being released on a $40,000 bond, according to jail records.

Contact reporter Alex Macon at 409-683-5241 or alex.macon@galvnews.com.

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(74) comments

Dorothy Holt

Charged with manslaughter. OK. Alcohol? Drugs? Lost on the highway and driving on the wrong side of the white line? Pretty good reporting here. However, I will say this to my dying breath that anyone who is riding a bicycle during the day or at night is pushing the envelope. People drive impaired on our roads too often. Riding a bicycle on these roads is just not a smart idea. Yes, you should have the right to ride a bike without worrying about an impaired driver but it doesn't happen. Is it re

Lars Faltskog

So, Dotty DOA -

You never get on your bike to have a pleasurable ride to enjoy the scenery and get a little exercise? For fear that "riding a bicycle during the day or at night is pushing the envelope"? How about driving a 2-ton piece of machinery that goes over thousand-feel overpasses (think Causeway).

Do you ever enter or leave the island? You agree that it could be dangerous enough to drive a car, but you do it anyway. So, where's the difference in accepting the risk for riding a bicycle?

Kevin Lang

Thousand foot overpasses? I don't even think there are any suspension bridges that high up anywhere. I think the Causeway has about 75 feet clearance above the water. The Fred Hartman Bridge between La Porte and Baytown is about almost 180 feet above the water. The BW8 Bridge is about 175 feet above the water. The Kemah Bridge has similar clearance to the Causeway.

I doubt Laura Elder would choose a 1000 foot high bridge for her first 10K. :-)

Lars Faltskog

LOL, kev -

I was never a math major and I certainly can't be mistaken for an architect nor engineer.

But I still don't know why folks are OK with driving through the tallest heighth of the Causeway when they could conceivably drive off the ledge into Galveston Bay and really get "hurt". But, to them, it's God-awful "dangerous" to take a bike ride on 3005, or the streets and barrios of our island.

Dorothy Holt

never mind the rest. My point has been made. Ride a bike on a highway and don't be surprised if you get hurt. It is dangerous enough to drive along in a car much less a bicycle that offers no protection.

Dwight Strain

Its like blaming the alligator that bites the head of the performer that sticks his head in the gators mouth 10 times a day... Do something absurdly dangerous and then when the inevitable happens... blame someone else

Gehrig Boone

Ten pound bike vs 4,000 vehicle: vehicle 1, bike 0. Shear stupidity to put a bike in automobile territory.

Ron Shelby

It's particularly bad out there at night since there is no lighting on those roads. I've seen at least one nasty motorcycle accident with a black SUV out there at about 10 at night due to the lack of lighting.

Don Ciaccio

Sadly, I saw a cyclist riding down FM 3005 yesterday morning around 5:00. I just shook my head in awe. My friend and I were commenting how utterly dangerous it was. This reminded me that no one should be riding on a bike down 3005 in the day, much less at night.

Andy Aycoth

Really , not fault of driver ? Shoulders of road are for emergency only to pull over and stop, not drive on like an extension of the road.

Kevin Martin

When I was growing up, my parents always told me to never ride my bike in the street because you could be killed. Now, these cyclist want to ride down the middle of a busy rode and highway. It makes NO sense. It's hard to feel compassion for an adult who knowing and willingly got on bike and decided to to go for a ride down a busy highway or rode.

Yes, I do have a bike. When I do ride it, it's down the sidewalk on the beach.

Blanca Bell

On many occasions while driving on 61st street in Galveston there are cyclists risking their lives riding in traffic lanes in heavy traffic. Its like they are daring us to hit them.

Antony Freeman

I'm sorry. If you're riding a bicycle on the road, shoulder or not, you are irresponsibly risking your life. What a fool the bicycle rider was. Was the driver not intoxicated?

Bicyclers will say they have a right to ride on the road too. Just fine, he had a right to be there too. But he's just as dead.

She shouldn't be charged. She should be suing his estate for damages and her own mental anguish.

Michelle Aycoth

First, Driver admits to being distracted... "She looked up and cyclist was there". Meaning she was looking down at address... phone text... gps... something that had her focused on something other than the road. Second, Should of the road not made for driving... meant for stopping due an emergency. Third and last point... Cyclist are in a no win situation because if they use the side walk, pedestrians complain. If they use the side of the road, drivers complain. And sadly, it's there are so many distracted drivers out there... WHO would want to ride With traffic??

Michelle Aycoth

Reposted due to so many Typos!
First, Driver admits to being distracted... "She looked up and cyclist was there". Meaning she was looking down at address... phone text... gps... something that had her focused on something other than the road. Second, Shoulder of the road not made for driving... meant for stopping due to an emergency. Third and last point... Cyclist are in a no win situation because if they use the side walk, pedestrians complain. If they use the side of the road, drivers complain. And sadly, there are so many distracted drivers out there... WHO would want to ride With traffic??

Amanda DeVries

People that drive a vehicle are 100% responsible for their own actions. I cannot believe you people are blaming the cyclist here.
It is the law that bikes have the same rights in the road as cars. Therefore that means that as stupid as the rest of you think it is to ride your bike, and I will agree that it is not the smartest thing to do if you have another option, it is still your responsibility as a driver to not run them over.
This woman was not keeping her eyes on the road. What if it had been a parked car? Still her fault.
Perhaps this rider was trying to get to work and this was their only mode of transportation. Maybe they had lost their license and had to ride a bike.
How does the fact that they were on a bike make their life any less important that yours or mine in a car? I'm sure if the were at home collecting unemployment and said they didn't have a car to get to work, many of you would be the first to say "ride a bike".
I can't stand smart cars, but I don't run them over. I don't like motorcycles either, but I don't run them over either.
The only way this was the cyclist fault is if he suddenly changes position and pulls out directly in front of the car or if it was as night and he had no lights. Bikes are required to have lights when ridden at night.

http://www.txdot.gov/inside-txdot/modes-of-travel/bicycle/faq.html

Kevin Lang

When I ride my bike on the roadways, I know that I'm taking a chance. I know I'm taking a chance just getting out of bed each day. I know that I have to do everything in my power to provide for my safety, including keeping my ears tuned to the surroundings, check behind me frequently, be well illuminated at night, ensure that I'm visible even during the daytime, and all that. Those are all small costs for the athletic and aerobic benefits I get, as well as the better opportunities to be a part of my surroundings. However, I know that no matter how I choose to get around, there are limits to how well I can protect myself from someone that is essentially bent on ensuring no one is safe.

I don't know if the cyclist in this case was doing everything he could to control the situation and mitigate all of his avoidable risks, but anytime a motorist shirks their responsibility to maintain complete control of their vehicle, bad things are likely to happen. This motorist failed to operate responsibly.

The fact that the laws of physics didn't favor the cyclist in this collision fails to absolve the driver of her responsibility to NOT hit other vehicles on the roadway.

Just who's fault would it have been had she rear-ended a semi going 50 mph, jackknifing it and sending it tumbling into a ditch, killing the driver and causing a fuel spill. How about if it were a Honda Pilot or Toyota Camry? If you say it's her fault, then please explain how rear-ending a bicycle is forgivable, while rear-ending a semi or passenger car is not?

Steve Fouga

As long as everyone follows the law, it's perfectly safe to ride a bike on the shoulder of a road. As soon as motorist or cyclist breaks the law, well... not so safe.

This motorist broke a law, and killed a cyclist. Hence a charge of manslaughter. Her fault, period. She knows it; she didn't flee the scene. Turned herself in to be charged.

Kevin Martin

zmmom quoted:

"It is the law that bikes have the same rights in the road as cars"

Well, let me ask you this? Would you go jump in the water with a bunch of feeding sharks? NO, because hopefully your smarter than that. It's not very smart to ride your bike down a busy highway or road. It's just not smart. No sympathy here.[wink]

Kevin Lang

The cyclist was NOT in the roadway. The cyclist was on the shoulder. The shoulder is NOT a driving lane. The bicyclist was where he was supposed to be under the circumstances. The driver was not.

In this case we could argue for years about whether or not he was smart to ride a bike where he was. However, I would tend to think we could agree that she was definitely not driving smart to have been unaware of the proper directions to wherever she was going, taking her eyes off the road to try to figure out how to get where she was going, and to let the car drift out of the traffic lane.

You are free to put your sympathy wherever you please. However, even if we accept your premise that the cyclist was not smart to be riding where he was, I still count 3 not-smart factors on her, so whether we give him 1 tick or 2, she still had 3 not-smarts to just 1 for him.

Amanda DeVries

Wow, Sam Houston. There are just really no words. Must be nice to live in your world.

wadonna

First off. Did any off you witness this ACCIDENT.. maybe this person had no cell or GPS and was paying attention...have anyone of you experienced the glare of the Sun at Noon it is blinding even for the most experienced drivers...
Please for god sake give this lady a break ...it's very sad for both families involved... Dear God ... Please lift up both families and ask you to wrap your arms around them. Amen

Steve Fouga

I hope you're not licensed to operate a motor vehicle, wadonna, if you have trouble driving at noon on a sunny day.

If I remember right, the driver ADMITTED to inattention. The typical charge for killing a person by accident is manslaughter. If it were not by accident, it would be murder. I don't think anyone's saying it wasn't an accident.

wadonna


Wow.. zmmon .. I sure hope you never have an accident .. because accidents happen

Andy Aycoth

I ride and walk always facing traffic and not on the road way. I want be able to get out of the way of people in 4000 lbs vehicles who think they have the right to run over you if you are on the shoulder of the road.

Kevin Lang

Riding facing traffic is illegal. It's also more unsafe than riding with traffic. Riding on open highways is actually safer than riding in town among parked cars. Riding on the sidewalk, especially in town, is even more risky--more obstacles plus cars pulling into and out of driveways unable to see you in time.

On the other hand, if there are that many motorists out there that aren't paying attention, the sooner you know you need to high-tail it into the ditch, the better. Personally, I prefer to use my ears to alert me to oncoming traffic, and a mirror and a glance backward to confirm they're staying in their lane.

Either way, when we're riding, we need to understand our risks, and do what we feel is most advantageous to us to give us our best chance of getting there in one piece. What you're doing seems to be working for you. Just don't let the bad drivers deprive you of what you enjoy.

Mojo Boogie

I live downtown, I have been driving for 32 years and have never been in an accident.A couple of weeks ago, I was trying to turn left.I bike came up on my right side, in my blind spot, and I almost smooshed him.Sad thing,he is a friend.We both apologized profusely and went on our way.I was using my blinker,and did not check a second time,he for coming up into my blind spot.It happens.

Kevin Lang

mojoboogie,

I'm trying to picture the scenario. If you were turning left, and he came into your right blind spot, wouldn't you have been turning away from him? Or, did he come from the road you were turning onto and almost got squashed as you were settling into the lane?

Amanda DeVries

Wadonna, Pease read the article before making comments. The driver herself made statements that said she "looked up" which would mean she was looking down to begin with. She was also driving on the shoulder, her own statement. That's not where you drive.

Lars Faltskog

This driver did a really dumb thing, driving on the shoulder "looking for an address". A good driver moves his/her car, stops in a parking lot.

Bicyclists have every right to be where they are. Think of all the places in Europe and Asia (Tokyo and Bangkok come to mind) - where bicyclists are numerous. Although I am sure there are unsafe/unthoughful drivers in those places in the world, It's particularly we as Americans, who feel "entitled" in our luxury cars, to feel we're more "important" than the lowly bike riders. It is not a God-given right to possess a vehicle and use it to be negligent on the road, and not take into account bicyclists, pedestrians, etc. Wadonna - to call this an accident is totally inaccurate. The driver was negligent and uncaring. The letter of the law rightly will smack her up beside her head.

Steve Fouga

"It's particularly we as Americans, who feel "entitled" in our luxury cars,"

Yes, Lars, you hit the nail on the head. I would refine your statement a little more and say "Texans" rather than Americans in general. Texans believe in drillin' for oil, carryin' a gun, and by God, cyclists ridin' on roads that they paid for with their tax dollars deserve to be hit! I've ridden in several states, and Texas takes the cake when it comes to angry drivers. Galveston County is the worst spot I've experienced, BTW.

Lars Faltskog

Well, Jake...I certainly don't want to single out my fellow home-state citizenry. You may be right - Texans in general are probably worse than Colorodians. Probably Californians may be a bit more cognizant since their many days of nice weather likely brings out bicyclists more numerously, thus making the drivers more used to the concept by habit.

I must say when I was at UT-Austin, the drivers in Austin are quite reasonable, as long as you were in close vicinity of UT. And, other areas like Town Lake (bike trails along and such), Shoal Creek. OH yeah...it's not Town Lake anymore, Lady Bird Lake??

Austin rocks!

Steve Fouga

You're definitely right about Austin. Just as bike-friendly as CO and CA.

Chris Gimenez

Keep in mind Jake and Servitude, if you don't like our driving and gun laws there isn't anything keeping you from moving to some place like Massachusetts or New York.

As for Austin, that bastion of liberal-progressive twisted ideology has worse traffic than Houston and the most reckless, inconsiderate drivers I've run into throughout this state. Add to that arrogant bike riders who ride the lines on the side of the road when they have a bike lane and it makes us look like we're a bunch of Nancy's here.

Lars Faltskog

Poor angry, anti-intellectual BEVOresident.

Steve Fouga

bvrez, you're killin' me! Texas gun laws are mediocre to poor. Give me Arizona's.

But we lead the nation in self-righteousness... [tongue]

Dorothy Holt

Sverige1, another ridiculous statement on your part about BVResident. You don't even have a clue! Nerd.

wadonna

So...zmomm....so what punishment do you think she deserves for this... ? Take her house .. go to jail ?? Don't you think the pain of hurting his family forever is enough to live with .. tell me ... What would make you happy ... You all act like she did this on purpose.....

Steve Fouga

How about 1000 hrs community service, lecturing high-school children and driver-ed classes on what it feels like to kill a person with an automobile? Plus 10 years driver's license suspension.

The family will decide whether to sue for wrongful death. I doubt they will, but that's just my opinion.

Mojo Boogie

I don't even think she should have that.An accident is just that.If you have never been distracted by anything (crying kid,bee in the car,etc) then you have the right to judge. Not that long ago,she would not have been charged.Living with this mistake is punishment enough.

Steve Fouga

So you believe in a lack of accountability?

An unavoidable "accident" -- say, a blowout on a rain-slickened highway that sends a car sliding into a cyclist -- should not be punished.

An "accident" caused by a person's actions should have consequences. Because of a lack of attention and BY BREAKING A LAW, she killed a person. She should be held accountable for her action, which in this case took a life.

I've caught myself drifting before, and thanked God I didn't strike anyone or cause a wreck. But if I had, I would have deserved to be punished.

I also think it's funny that you believe I have no right to judge, but you do. LOL!

Willis Briggs

Let's see........ accident happened April 19, she turned herself in Aug. 8th,........that was some nap she took before turning herself in[ohmy]

Steve Fouga

She remained at the scene of the accident when it occurred, and I assume turned herself in when charges were filed.

Andy Aycoth

Kevjlang. So you say riding on a highway with traffic at your back is safer ? So I am peddling 7mph, traffic is going 55 mph and cars darting in and out around me ?
Thanks for the education, I already feel safer.

Kevin Lang

Well, there are some laws of physics involved there. Plus, there's the notion about drivers not being particularly expectant of vehicles coming at them on their right sides. There are studies that support it.

There's a pretty good article at http://bicyclesafe.com/ that provides some good safety information. I used to ride about 400 miles per week following most of these tips. The worst thing that happened to me was getting a beer can thrown at me, and I was ticked they didn't have the courtesy of throwing me an unopened one.

Andy Aycoth

I think she felt bad and meant no harm. She made a bad decision and feel sorry for her. Warning to all distracted drivers, this could be you !

wadonna

@oldblue because the charges were just filed this week not when the accident happened into anybody else out there she'll have to sell her house to save her life

Jim Forsythe

In Texas you can put up collateral, you don't have to sell your house.

"What can be used as collateral?
Some examples of collateral include credit cards, houses, cars, boats, jewelry, or electronic equipment (you get the idea)"

No matter what transportation you use, bad things can happen.

Andy Aycoth

Wadonna you are bad! I was right there with you tell you brought monitory items into this !

Andy Aycoth

81-68 = ? What ?

Underthegun

She was not charged originally no drugs or alcohol involved. Here is story. To commit a crime you have to show intent. Manslaughter is what people get for shooting and killing their spouse in a fight. She had no intent to kill. I don't think manslaughter is a good charge. This is politics by some bicyclists who think they should do whatever they want. It could happen to anyone.

http://thepolicenews.net/default.aspx/act/newsletter.aspx/category/news+1-2/MenuGroup/home/NewsLetterID/44699/startrow/21.htm

A bicyclist from Houston was hit by a car while riding Saturday in the 19,000 block of FM-3005 west of Jamaica Beach.

Officials say he remains in critical condition at UTMB Hospital.

Jon Trevelise, 68, was riding east at about 11:30 a.m. when he was hit by a car going in the same direction.

He was taken by ambulance to the University of Texas Medical Branch.

There was no indication of alcohol being a factor in the accident and the driver was not charged.


John Wayne Ferguson

Your definition of a crime is demonstrably incorrect. In Texas, and most places, intent is not required to sustain a manslaughter charge.

According to the Texas penal code a person commits manslaughter if "he/she recklessly causes the death of an individual." It's a second-degree felony.

Lars Faltskog

The non-use of alcohol is immaterial. Other types of negligence very likely occurred, which make it a crime.

Crimes while driving: 1. texting while driving, 2. dialing a # on cellphone, and/or being engaged in phone conversation that causes one to pay less attention to road, 3. fumbling through navigation devices to look for a location.

I would think that a driver who doesn't want to kill someone or get in trouble with the law would stop vehicle in a safe place and find his/her way. If you get distracted and cause an accident, then you have to face the possibility of being considered an unlawful individual who committed a crime.

gingersmith

Some of these comments are unbelievably ignorant! Jon was riding during the DAY, Not at night. He was riding on the shoulder of an old 2 lane Highway (w significantly less traffic than a typical highway) which has a Shoulder lane that is as wide as a whole lane, perhaps even wider!

It was sheer negligence on her part!

Steve Fouga

I agree wholeheartedly with gingersmith.

FM 3005 is easily the safest place to ride on the Island, especially west of Jamaica Beach. Wide, flat, generous lanes, minimal traffic; a cyclist is visible for a mile out there. It would take egregious inattention to hit anything on FM 3005.

Chris Gimenez

"FM 3005 is easily the safest place to ride on the Island, especially west of Jamaica Beach."

Apparently not.

Steve Fouga

Why do you say that?

Cyclists have logged thousands of miles on FM 3005 without getting hit. Cyclists get hit much more often elsewhere on the Island. In fact, I'd say much of the Island is downright dangerous -- more traffic, no shoulders, lots of tourists, lots of parked cars, terrible road surfaces -- and the number of accidents bear this out.

I guess other cyclists have been struck on FM 3005, but I can't recall any.

Kevin Lang

May be safest, but not quite 100% Guaranteed Safe.

Riding a stationary bike in your living room is probably an even safer place, but the scenery could get old after awhile and you could die of boredom. Or, the way some people drive around here, someone could crash through your living room wall and crush you.

Lars Faltskog

Response to bvresident posted at 1:54 pm on Wed, Sep 10, 2014:

Poor, angry, bvresident - who surely has "issues". God only knows why you even want to "trash" a beautiful place like our capital city Austin.

Alexis Daggle

Melissa Smith lost her son on July 21st. This is a woman that has experienced tragedy on so many levels. In her life, she has been dealt some life experiences that are unfathomable to everyone who knows her on a personal level. Just to name a few tragedies over the years- Melissa has experienced tragic loss in her family, house fire, loss of job, a son that was dear to her heart, and now the latest news in the newspaper- the tragic death of Jon- a bicycle rider. Just some background I would like to share about Melissa, in all the years I have known her- she is the type of person that puts others before herself, generous beyond belief, a woman of strong faith, and most of all keeping families together is very important to her. This latest tragic event breaks my heart for all of the families involved. I have noticed that people seem to be posting ignorant comments on an event that can happen to any of us who drive. Unfortunately, bad things can happen to good people. Melissa needs prayer.

Andy Aycoth

Not feeling it !

Mojo Boogie

Y'all are just sad. This was a horrendous accident, yes. But to criminalize this woman serves no good. If we do, then we should criminalize the cause of every fatal accident in Houston. Happens daily. People hydroplane, humans do human things and cause accidents. None of can judge, because none of us are perfect drivers. Again, unless this woman is some kind of heartless psychopath, which I doubt, she will punish herself for the rest of her life. Nothing will bring back the cyclist.

Kevin Lang

mojoboogie2, it may very well be that she's showing a ton of remorse, and will punish herself worse than the law can. If so, then the legal process will expose that, and, especially if she has an otherwise clean record, will factor into either reduced charges, reduced sentencing, or some other kind of judgement. The charge is legitimate. At the very least, people need to look at this case as an example of what distracted driving DOES lead to.

I doubt anyone is looking for her to receive a lethal injection in Huntsville over this. However, there does need to be some kind of remedy for the demonstrated behavior of operating a motor vehicle while not paying attention to that operation.

If the shoe were on my foot, instead of hers, I would fully expect to be charged and to plead my case.

Yes, locking her up won't bring the cyclist back. Neither will her sorrow, tears, and words of remorse. So, the legal decisions should be based on how do we deal with the behavior that caused this fatal accident.

Andy Aycoth

This was a needless accident.

Kevin Lang

I guess we could say that for most accidents.

Phyllis Deats

Two families are suffering and let’s not lose sight of this. Each person that has commented could turn a negative into a positive………….don’t be so quick to judge another for what was truly an accident. Pray and support both families.

Kevin Lang

For everyone that is stating that it was an accident--which I don't think anyone's disputing--are you saying that we should just leave it at that, or is there something else that you think should come into play here? Who are you accusing of wanting to see her drawn and quartered, skewered in the public square, raked over the coals, or any other major form of punishment?

I don't think that anyone that's posted here feels that she intentionally mowed over the cyclist. I don't think that anyone feels she intended to do this. The charge against her also bears out that the prosecution doesn't think she intended to run him over.

However, is just saying "Oops! I'm sorry. Please forgive me." an adequate way of handling fatal accidents? How about cases where there is compounded negligence at the root of it?

If this is her first incident along these lines, I don't think she should rot in jail. However, she should pay some price for her negligence. I would hope that the legal system can figure out what the appropriate charges and penalties. My belief is that the current charges are a starting point. I'm guessing that the final word on this will be somewhere much closer to saying she's sorry than 20 years in prison.

Lars Faltskog

Response to DottyOA posted at 2:58 am on Sat, Sep 13, 2014:

Dotty DOA -

"Nerd"?!? I haven't heard that word since 1988. Just ask and I'll let you in on some 21st century jargon. Have you gone CRAY CRAY? LOL

So, tell me (since I've already asked, but no answer)....do you ever ride your bike or are you fearful that something disastrous is going to happen amidst the "danger" you take on?

Andy Aycoth

Could you please remove this news article GDN ?

Steve Fouga

Why, Alvin?

Andy Aycoth

I am tired of looking at her!

Andy Aycoth

Jake,just likeI am hearing from you.

Andy Aycoth

So close this! We are done !

Steve Fouga

LOL Alvin, you were the one who started it up again! Quit commenting if you don't want it to keep popping to the top...

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