Driver who struck cyclist on Pine Flat Road pleads no contest
Published: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 at 11:42 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 at 5:18 p.m.
A Rohnert Park man who crashed a stolen car into a New Zealand bicycle racer and then drove away, leaving him seriously injured, has pleaded no contest to all charges and faces more than 10 years in prison.
Arthur Ben Yu, 36, was accused of hitting Michael Torckler, winner of the Tour of Borneo, on June 29 on Pine Flat Road north of Healdsburg.
Yu stopped briefly after crashing into Torckler, then fled the scene, prosecutors said. A passenger in his car jumped out to check on the injured bicyclist, who suffered shattered facial bones and a broken arm and hand. Yu was arrested the next day.
The hit-and-run crash came during a string of car-vs.-bicycle incidents in Sonoma County that claimed the lives of five people since May. District Attorney Jill Ravitch said it underscores the need for drivers to remain alert for others on the roads, including cyclists and pedestrians.
“And drivers must hear this simple message that if the worst occurs, pull over, call for help and render assistance,” Ravitch said in a statement. “We will not tolerate drivers leaving those whom they've injured for dead on the side of the road.”
Yu pleaded no contest Monday to four felonies — hit-and-run, reckless driving causing injury, car theft and possession of stolen property. He also pleaded to a misdemeanor count of driving without a license.
He is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 27 by Judge Kenneth Gnoss, who could put him behind bars for a maximum of 10 years and four months.
Torckler was riding downhill on the winding road when he was struck by Yu as he rounded a turn. Yu's passenger, William Frasier, got out and helped Torckler.
Yu was arrested at home after a roommate phoned police.
The car, a 1996 Honda Accord, was stolen from Yu's father a month earlier, prosecutors said.
Torckler was released from the hospital after 12 days. He testified in court about the incident but was unable to identify the person who hit him. He has since returned to New Zealand, prosecutors said.
Sonoma County cyclists have experienced one of the most deadly summers in recent memory.
Ruben Hernandez, 37, of Modesto was killed July 31 when a pickup made a left turn in front of him as he was descending Fountaingrove Parkway.
Prosecutors have not filed charges against the driver, Adam Bigham, 22, of Sebastopol. Assistant District Attorney Christine Cook on Tuesday said prosecutors were awaiting the results of a police investigation.
Other cycling deaths in the county since May are:
— August Bissiri, 85, of Laguna Woods Village, who was hit by a car and killed May 24 on Highway 1 near Bodega Bay.
— David Standley, 34, who died May 31 when he apparently rode a bike into oncoming traffic on River Road.
— Brian Laurie, 68, of Sonoma who died June 21 when he rode into the path of a big-rig in Sonoma.
— Retired Sonoma State University professor Steve Norwick, 68, who was fatally injured when he was struck from behind June 8 on Petaluma Hill Road. He died from his injuries 11 days later.
The driver suspected of crashing into Norwick, Robert Cowart, 68, of Rohnert Park, is charged with felony hit-and-run and could face vehicular manslaughter charges. A judge has suspended criminal proceedings against Cowart pending a review of his mental condition.
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