Ambulance Driver Won't Be Charged
DA Could Not Prove Enough For Criminal Charges
FOX POINT, Wis., Updated 7:43 p.m. CDT August 17, 2000 -- The Milwaukee County District Attorney's office has recommended that charges not be filed against the ambulance driver who was involved in a fatal bicycle accident July 4.
Carl Zach was killed in a bike race July 4 during the final sprint of a race in Fox Point, Wis., when his bike slammed into an errant ambulance on the race course.
The Milwaukee County District Attorney's office announced Wednesday that it will not press criminal charges against the ambulance driver, a 20-year veteran of the ambulance service.
Friends of the 27-year-old cyclist were disappointed with the decision.
"It was a grave, grave error of judgement... and it cost somebody their life," Zach's friend Randy Radish said.
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Ambulance driver resigns after accident that killed cyclist
By Marie Rohde
of the Journal Sentinel staff
Last Updated: Aug. 3, 2000
The driver of the North Shore Fire Department ambulance involved in the July 4 accident that killed a bicyclist during a race has resigned.
The 46-year-old driver, a firefighter for 20 years, was placed on administrative leave shortly after the accident. The other firefighter in the ambulance also was placed on leave but was reinstated this week.
Fire Chief David Berousek said the internal investigation of the incident had been in its final stage of review when the driver resigned. Because the officer resigned, the internal investigation is moot, Berousek said.
Assistant District Attorney Mark Williams, who is reviewing the case, is expected to decide early next week on whether to issue criminal charges.
The matter also was investigated by the State Patrol. A State Patrol spokesman referred questions about the case to Williams, who was unavailable Thursday.
The accident occurred about 5 p.m. in the 7100 block of N. Santa Monica Blvd. The victim, Carl Zach, 27, was sprinting to the finish line when the ambulance had made a U-turn, apparently in an attempt to return to the fire station about two blocks away.
Zach, a substitute teacher, was believed to have had his head down and did not see the ambulance when he hit it while traveling at around 40 mph.
"This was a tragic accident that devastated the bicyclist's family and friends and the entire staff of the North Shore Fire Department as well," Berousek said. "Our mission is to save lives, and we work hard every day to do just that. In this case, that did not happen. Every member of our department truly wishes they could change the events of that day. Unfortunately, we cannot."
Appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Aug. 4, 2000.
Jansen's victory has extra meaning
Cyclist dedicates triumph to rider killed in mishap
By Burnice A. Cain
of the Journal Sentinel staff
Last Updated: July 22, 2000
Waukesha - Harm Jansen of team Saturn had both arms raised as he crossed the finish line Saturday and won the Home Depot Waukesha Cycling Classic, the 20th stage of the International Cycling Classic.
As exhilarated as he felt, though, a somber memory rode with Jansen throughout the race.
"I dedicate this win completely to Carl Zach," said Jansen, referring to the rider from Waukesha who died in a crash at an Independence Day race in Fox Point.
Jansen, the Dutch rider who is the defending champion in the annual series that concludes today, won this Pro / Senior 1&2 stage for the third time in his career. He defeated 100 other cyclists in a 100-kilometer race that consisted of 70 laps around Cutler Park.
"I'm happy to win this race but if you put everything in perspective, this race is a small thing compared to the rest of life. I heard about Zach and his life, and I'm glad to honor him in any way I can.
Others did the same.
Earlier in the day, all Category 3 participants rode the course backward for one lap in complete silence to memorialize Zach.
"It was beautiful," spectator Sharon Nelson said. "It seemed like it was a little prayer for him."
Said Michael Peterson of Milwaukee, one of Zach's teammates, "It was a nice way to remember him, because racing and teaching were both very important to him."
In addition to the symbolic ride, Zach's bike, helmet, sunglasses and shoes were given to 15-year-old John Archiquette of Wausau, one of the youths Zach mentored.
"He was my idol, and to a person like him, to choose to take me out for a week out of his summer last year and bond with me is very special and an honor," Archiquette said.
Jansen got into the spirit by autographing and giving his trophy to a fan named Bobbi Horcos, who cheered him on for the entire race.
Second place went to Ivan Dominguez, the Cuban national champion who has finished second or third for five straight stages.
Pelle Kil of Woodland Hills, Calif., still maintaining possession of the yellow jersey, has almost locked up the overall title. Roberto Gaggioli of Santa Rosa, Calif., took the day off but is still the red jersey bonus points leader and is expected to race today in the Bodyworks by Concours Whitefish Bay Classic.
HOME DEPOT WAUKESHA CYCLING CLASSIC
CAT 1/2 - 1, Harm Jansen, Calif.; 2, Ivan Dominquez, Fla; 3, Shawn Willard, N.C.; 4, David McCook, Calif.; 5, Gustavo Carillo, Ill.
CAT 4/5 - 1, Brian Schaning, Wis.; 2, Greg Weix, Wis.; 3, John Hamman, Wis.
CAT 3 - 1, Brian Hammer, Wis.; 2, Denny Yunk, Wis.; 3, Geoff Godsey, Wis.
WOMEN - 1, Christine Miller, Ill.; 2, Annie Gariepy; 3, Bridgett Evans, Australia.
MASTERS 40+ - 1, Steve Poulter, Wash.; 2, Jeff Thompson, Wis.; 3, Gary Doering, Ill.
Overall Leader - Pelle Kille.
Appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on July 23, 2000.
Report says driver in fatal bike crash failed to yield
From the Journal Sentinel
Last Updated: July 17, 2000
The ambulance driver involved in a fatal accident during a July 4 bicycle race failed to yield the right of way to racers and disregarded a traffic-control sign, WTMJ-TV (Channel 4) reported Monday from a State Patrol report.
No citations were issued against the driver, who has a clear driving record.
But the report says Carl Zach, the bicyclist who was killed in the Fox Point accident, may have contributed to the accident by sprinting toward the finish line with his head down.
Racers typically lower their heads during the final stretch of a race while maximizing their speed.
It was during the sprint that Zach, a 27-year-old substitute teacher, collided with rear of the ambulance - which, while attempting to make a U-turn, passed a wooden barricade and entered the northbound lane of N. Santa Monica Blvd.
The ambulance driver was unable to complete the turn, and the ambulance ended up blocking the lane the bikes were in at the time of the crash, the report says.
The race's course had been closed to traffic and was being controlled by police.
The State Patrol report has been forwarded to the Milwaukee County district attorney's office for review, and charges could still be issued.
Two other riders were injured in the accident during the Criterium of Independence race.
Appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on July 18, 2000.
Waukesha bike race dedicated to Zach
His teammates will race in his memory in Home Depot Classic
By Matt Palmquist
of the Journal Sentinel staff
Last Updated: July 7, 2000
Waukesha - This year's Home Depot Cycling Classic is being dedicated to the memory of Carl Zach, the city's native son who died Tuesday after his bicycle collided with an ambulance during a race in Fox Point.
"He's the hometown guy on the hometown team in the hometown race," said Classic director Randy Radish, who trained with Zach last year. "It's a good way to memorialize him. He was an excellent cyclist, very passionate about the sport and about everything he did."
Zach, a 27-year-old substitute teacher, was a member of the Waukesha-based Cook Law Cycling team. His five-year cycling career ended near the finish line of the Criterium of Independence race Tuesday, when a North Shore paramedic ambulance wound up in the path of the racers.
Police have not concluded their investigation of the fatality.
"It was a freak accident of epic proportions," Radish said. "It has devastated an unbelievable amount of people."
Despite the accident, Radish said, Zach's teammates still plan to race in the Classic, which begins downtown at 10 a.m. July 22. On Friday night, Radish said, the team was meeting to discuss race strategy.
"For a split second everyone thinks, 'God, that could have been me,' " Radish said. "But if we worry about every little thing we do, we'd all be sitting in a rubber room."
Susan Buchanan, executive director of the Business Improvement District, said Zach's death has enhanced awareness of bicycle-racing safety.
"We've been very fortunate that nothing's ever occurred at our venue," Buchanan said. "But we also have very good course marshals. The police work hand-in-hand with us and work very hard to protect the spectators as well as the racers."
Meanwhile, Radish said, he is still mourning Zach. "If you had a daughter, he was the kind of guy you hope your daughter brings home and says, 'Daddy, I want to marry this guy,' " Radish said. "He had a heart of gold."
Appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on July 8, 2000.
Cyclist's death sparks shock, anger
Authorities look at how, why ambulance got on race path
It was victory - not an ambulance - that Carl Zach had in his sights as he sprinted with a pack of riders to the finish line of the Criterium of Independence bike race in Fox Point.
Intense and competitive, the 27-year-old substitute teacher thrived in those sprints over his five-year racing career.
But a collision with the rear of that ambulance took away his victory, and his life.
"He was sprinting for all it's worth, with his head down, and he never saw it," said Denny Yunk, a teammate on the Cook Law Cycling team, who had been racing alongside Zach seconds before the crash.
Estimating that his teammate was traveling 40 mph at the time of the crash, Yunk said the impact of Zach's bicycle against the rear doors of the ambulance was deafening.
"I can't stop hearing it," Yunk said Wednesday, a day after the tragedy.
Zach's mother said Wednesday she felt a "mountain of anger" over her son's death, especially because it occurred in the final stretch of the race - when competitors typically lower their heads and dash blindly for the finish line.
"They're not expecting traffic to be crossing in front of them," Barbara Zach said. "That's what I'm angry about."
Zach's mother will have to wait, perhaps until next week, for an official explanation as to how and why the North Shore paramedic ambulance wound up in her son's path, on a course that was closed to traffic and controlled by local police.
"How, where, why, are all questions on our want-to-know list," North Shore Fire Chief David Berousek said. "They're all good questions, and they're the things we're asking now."
The Wisconsin State Patrol is conducting an investigation to find the answers. Their findings are expected in about a week.
Berousek's department will conduct a separate, internal investigation.
The chief said preliminary information showed the paramedic vehicle was returning from a hospital to its station at 7300 N. Santa Monica Blvd. - more than a block from the crash site - about 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Yunk said the southbound ambulance appeared to make a U-turn across the street as the racers charged north. But instead of continuing north and pulling into the station, the rig stopped directly in the path of the racers, in the 7100 block of N. Santa Monica Blvd.
According to the Milwaukee County medical examiner's report, the rig knocked over a barricade and could not complete its U-turn into the restricted northbound lane.
As the ambulance prepared to back up so it could complete the turn, Zach and possibly other bicyclists crashed into its rear, the report says.
Two other racers, Brett Meinke, 32, of Milwaukee, and Todd Gruszynski, 26, of Cedarburg, were injured in the collision. Meinke was treated at Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital in Wauwatosa and released Tuesday; Gruszynski was treated at the scene.
The Fire Department personnel involved in the crash are a 20-year veteran and a probationary firefighter with seven months' experience. They have been placed on administrative leave and received counseling to help them through the trauma of the crash, Berousek said.
Fox Point Police Chief Thomas Czaja said he would not speculate as to who was at fault.
"It's too early in the investigation right now to make any assumptions," he said.
Zach, Meinke and Gruszynski were in the lead pack of a field of about 50 racers competing in one of seven events that made up the Criterium of Independence, sponsored by the Nova Cycle Sport and Today's TMJ4 cycling teams. The races, which started at noon, were part of the WCA Wisconsin Cup & WCA Sprint Competition series.
The racers sprinted around a one-mile course, going northbound along N. Santa Monica Blvd., east on Bell Road, south on N. Lake Drive, and west on E. Green Tree Road. The northbound lanes of Santa Monica and the southbound lanes of Lake Drive were closed to accommodate the racers, and barricades were put in place to keep traffic from crossing through the median on Santa Monica, into the northbound lanes.
Head down and legs pumping furiously, Zach never saw the ambulance that came between him and the finish line, Yunk said.
The final sprint to the finish line provides the riskiest moments of a bicycle race, according to veteran racers.
During that sprint, racers may hit speeds in excess of 35 mph. Adrenaline is pumping and arms are flailing in an all-out effort to be the first across the line.
Often riders are more focused on other racers than on the road in front of them.
But experienced racers manage to keep an eye on the road just in case a child or a dog darts out in front of them.
An ambulance is one of the last things riders expect to find in their path.
Tom Schuler, a retired bike racer, said race courses generally are safe, but things do happen.
"The diciest place of the race (the sprint) is exactly where he crashed," said Schuler, who now manages the Saturn Cycling Team and two other professional teams. "That's when you have to keep your head up."
Former cycle racer Brent Emery said often the lead riders are keyed in on the riders that are closest to them.
"You are so wound up and so focused," said Emery, owner of Emery's Bicycle & Super Fitness Centers. "You always keep a wary eye for anything (on the course). But vehicles on a closed course are so unexpected."
Yunk, who has been racing for four years, said he has witnessed several instances in which outsiders have entered a race course and nearly caused disaster.
He recalled one time when a woman with a baby in a stroller scurried across the path of oncoming racers. He also said motorists sometimes dash across a race path, much the way some motorists try to beat oncoming trains at railroad crossings.
"It just happens with frightening frequency," he said.
Zach, Yunk and the others were competing in the Category 3 division, just one grouping below the top two levels of racers in the cup and sprint series. He was in second place in the category in the sprint competition series after 17 of 25 races and had taken his first victory in the category on Sunday, in the Pewaukee Criterium.
Zach, 27, the manager of a bike shop in Waukesha and a substitute teacher, brought an intensity and competitiveness to bicycling and other aspects of his life.
"Carl realized his potential," said Joseph Cook, the Waukesha attorney who sponsored the five-man racing team, organized just this year.
The team had won several races and was building a name for itself on the racing circuit before Tuesday's tragedy.
Zach had worked as a full-time substitute teacher for the past two years at Muskego High School.
Principal Robert Rammer said Zach also used his spare time at school to tutor students with special needs, even though he received no extra pay for it.
"He was one of those people we all hope we can find in teachers," Rammer said, who choked up while talking of Zach.
Unable to find a permanent teaching position, Zach turned his attention to racing. He trained intensely and even talked about moving to Arizona, where he could more easily train year-round.
At the Spring City Cycle shop in Waukesha where he worked as manager, mourners visited and brought flowers Wednesday to show their fondness for the fallen bicyclist.
Zach had organized clinics at the store to encourage young cyclists and help them learn the sport.
Store owner Jay Vinger said Zach talked about pursuing a master's degree in hopes that that would help him land a regular teaching job.
"He loved teaching," Vinger said, "but the bikes were kind of an interest or hobby that turned into a job."
Zach became interested in bikes while attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He worked at a bike shop in Madison, and after graduating in 1995 he moved to Waukesha County and found work at Spring City.
Zach, who was born in Milwaukee and graduated from Waukesha North High School in 1990, is survived by his parents, George Zach and Barbara Zach, and two sisters, Theresa (Bassam) Takli of Glendale, Calif., and Rebecca Zach of Milwaukee.
Visitation is scheduled from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday at Randle-Dable Funeral Home, 1110 S. Grand Ave., Waukesha, followed by a funeral service with the Rev. William Humphreys officiating.
The family is asking that memorials be made in Zach's name to the U.S. Cycling Federation at One Olympic Plaza, Colorado Springs, CO, 80909.
John Fauber and Lucas Wall of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.
Appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on July 6, 2000.
Doug Russell's Column
Too Fast, Too Soon
By Doug Russell
July 10, 2000
The cyclists had headed into the homestretch in a full sprint. Heads down,
arms pumping, bicycles flailing, jockeying for position. Athletes in the
primes of their lives were in full throttle, traveling at speeds approaching
40 miles per hour. With adrenaline flowing freely, this was the most
critical part of the race. For one, a perfect Fourth of July was soon to be
culminated in victory. Then the unthinkable happened. Suddenly, an
ambulance had made a U-turn into the closed track. The leader never saw it
until it was too late.
Carl Joseph Zach was a mere 23 days away from turning 28 years old. He was
also just 2 months away from celebrating his 10th year high school reunion.
I was looking forward to seeing him again when the rest of us in the Class
of 1990 from Waukesha North got together in September.
So many of us lose track of high school friends following graduation. The
same could be said of Carl and I. I am the first to admit that I hadn't
seen him in those 10 years that had passed since graduation, until reports
of his death came across my television set in Milwaukee this past week.
If they're lucky, athletes die two deaths. The first of these is the
retirement from the sport they desperately love. My first column said
goodbye to Steve Young. Young still, God willing though, has many, many
years ahead of him. Years Carl Zach will never have to race his bicycle.
Bicyclists are a close-knit fraternity. Carl was just one member of the
Cook Law Cycling team, turning his hobby into a career.at least for now. On
the website, www.highschoolalumni.com, Carl writes: "I will do this for a
year or two more until I fully realize that I cannot live my life like this
anymore and must continue with my career aspirations - teaching." Sadly, he
never got that chance.
In the days of money and greed perverting the simple purity of athletic
competition, we should all reflect on athletes performing for the love of
their sport. Every day on my way to work, I pass by a junior league
baseball field. If I'm lucky, a ballgame is being played. Sometimes, if I
have a few minutes, I drop by to see kids giving 100%, if for no other
reason than the fact they love the game. All to often, today's
multi-millionaire players lose sight of the inner child in them that once
loved just being in uniform, and don't realize it until it's taken away.
Maybe I'm the one that's jaded. I want to believe the good side of people
will always outweigh selfish concerns. Perhaps I expect too much from the
athletes I cover on a daily basis.
In his time on Earth, Carl melded his love for teaching and bicycles into
one, having organized clinics at the shop where he worked in our hometown to
try to encourage kids to put down the remote and get on their bikes. When
he worked as a substitute teacher following his graduation from the
University of Wisconsin, he volunteered to help at-risk children realize
Carl Zach never got the chance to realize his, though. However, he came
closer than most in the time that he had.
Rest in peace, friend. You will be missed.
Doug Russell's column runs weekly at www.1on1sports.com.
You can contact Doug at Drussell@1on1sports.com
P(L)AY Me or Trade Me--July 5, 2000
White Elephant Arena, Charlotte, NC--June 26, 2000