by Sadie Williams
By now, most everyone has heard about the tragic accident between two Hinesburg residents, one travelling by bike, one by car, on Sunday, April 26. The driver has been identified as 17-year-old Joseph Marshall of Hinesburg, a senior at Champlain Valley Union (CVU) High School. The biker was 47-year-old Hinesburg resident Richard F. Tom, an employee of VBT (Vermont Bicycle Tours) Bicycling and Walking Vacations, a Bristol based company, and formerly of Earl’s Cyclery and Fitness in South Burlington.
On that day, the Hinesburg Police, Fire, and First Response responded to a reported an accident on Vermont Route 116 south of the village at 11:06am. Upon arrival, it was determined that an automobile had struck a bicyclist. Bystanders were on the scene, and CPR was in progress on both the driver and the cyclist. Despite those efforts, both were declared dead at the scene.
Initial investigations revealed that both car and bike were southbound on 116. Excessive speed was a contributing factor to Marshall losing control of his vehicle, first striking Tom, then a tree. Authorities do not suspect drug or alcohol use. When asked to comment, Hinesburg Police Chief Frank Koss said, “It’s still under investigation…We’ll release information as we get it.”
There has been an outpouring of sympathies for both victims of the crash. At CVU, the mood is “somber and respectful,” according to Principal Jeff Evans, who responded to a request for comment via email on Tuesday, April 28. “Joe had some very close relationships with some of our students and faculty members, and it’s fair to say we’re reeling from this news,” Evans continued. School counselors are available to students who may need them. In his email, Evans provided comments from Marshall’s teachers and counselor, who all remembered the 17-year old as a smiling, caring, and loyal person. There will be a prayer service at St. Jude’s Catholic Church in Hinesburg on Thursday, April 30 at 6pm to commemorate the life of Joseph Marshall.
Tom was actively involved in the local biking community, as evidenced by his past employment and membership with the Green Mountain Biking Club (GMBC). On Monday, April 27, GMBC President Kevin Bessett issued a statement on the club’s webpage regarding the accident, saying “It’s the first time in my 23 years of involvement with GMBC, and cycling, that a person I know will never return home from a ride. Myself and many others are devastated by this and will forever miss Richard and his charm.”
In a phone interview on Tuesday afternoon, Bessett spoke about efforts to celebrate the life of Richard Tom. GMBC is organizing a commemorative event to that end this Sunday, May 3. Riders will meet at CVU at 11am and bike to the crash site and back, passing Tom’s home on the way. “People need this, including myself, we need to come together, cyclists and non-cyclists,” Bessett stated. Helmets are required, and non-bikers are encouraged to attend. Look for updated information regarding the Sunday ride on www.thegmbc.com.
This is Vermont’s second fatal bike accident this spring, the first being Kelly Boe, who was struck by a driver in Weybridge on Tuesday, April 14. The driver of the motor vehicle was intoxicated.
These are the first biker fatalities to occur in the state since 2010, when there was one biker fatality (according to information available on www.highwaysafety.vermont.gov).
Bessett and GMBC Vice President John Williams have been in communication with Local Motion about the possibility of organizing a larger event to commemorate both Tom and Boe at some point in the future.