SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, July 20, 2018 (Gephardt Daily) — Authorities have released the name of bicyclist killed Thursday night after being struck by a UTA FrontRunner train in Salt Lake City.
The victim was 23-year-old Cameron Hooyer, UTA police said. Hooyer was one of hundreds who took part in the weekly 999 Ride, a popular nighttime bike ride organized on social media, when the event took a tragic turn at 650 W. 900 S. Harvey Milk Blvd.
UTA spokesperson Carl Arky told Gephardt Daily as many as 500 riders, possibly more, were participating in the mass bike ride when the accident happened about 11:15 p.m.
Arky said large groups of the cyclists had just crossed the tracks after the passing of a Union Pacific train. One minute later, while warning signs still flashed, a FrontRunner train approached the crossing.
“The arm was down, lights were flashing, bells were sounding,” Arky said, but instead of waiting for FrontRunner to pass, Hooyer attempted to beat the train.
“He was aware the train was coming, tried to speed up, tried to beat it,” Arky said. “Not a good decision. It’s a tragedy. We regret it.”
Police say Hooyer was killed instantly.
The 999 Ride group describes itself as “an inclusive, all-welcoming social ride that happens every Thursday.”
The rides begin at 900 East and 900 South between 9 and 10 p.m. with the majority of riders heading downtown after a series of planned social gatherings along the way.
UTA released a statement Friday criticizing group leaders for not contacting them about their planned route.
“The operator was shocked to see hundreds of cyclists near the tracks at that hour and several of them trying to cross the tracks and beat the train,” Arky said. “He immediately sounded his horn and engaged the train’s emergency braking system, but at 40-45 mph it takes some time to bring a train to a complete stop. And he can’t swerve or change directions.”
“UTA is not pointing fingers,” Arky said. “This is obviously a tragedy and we feel for the victim’s family and friends as well as the organizers of this group and the other cyclists who witnessed this accident.
“Perhaps the idea of large groups of people consuming alcoholic beverages before going out for a night ride that takes them over railroad tracks should be revisited? Fortunately, more people were not injured or killed. Eye witness reports indicate there were other cyclists who also gambled, ignored the warning signals, went around the crossing gate and rode across the tracks before the train arrived. They were the lucky ones.”
A posting Friday on 999 Ride’s Facebook page said Hooyer was a recent graduate from the design program at the University of Utah.
“I cannot imagine the pain and loss his family feels,” wrote post author, Mikey Vetter.
“A young man with so much life to live is gone,” Vetter said.”We are supposed to take care of our own. We are supposed to watch out for each other. We are supposed to keep each other safe, from one cyclist to another. Cameron deserves remembrance.”
“I’m planning to leave flowers at the 9th and 9th meeting place this evening. I hope to see other riders there, celebrating the life of one of our own.
“I hope that each and every rider considers this tragedy, and thinks about how they can keep themselves and others safe anytime you get on a bike.
“I hope those who choose the routes consider how they can promote safe riding. Safety should be the first priority for all of us.”