Cyclists Ride to Support Fiesta Island Crash Victims

More than 400 cyclists showed up for the tribute ride

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NBC 7's Omari Fleming reports on how San Diegans gathered in support of a cyclist critically injured in a wrong-way collision last week. Hundreds of cyclists including San Diego's Mayor Kevin Faulconer and the Chief of Police Shelley Zimmerman took part in a ride for Juan Carlos Vinolo. (Published Wednesday, Aug 20, 2014)

Hundreds of cyclists looped around Fiesta Island Tuesday evening as an emotional tribute to those injured in a collision with a wrong-way driver.

Organizer Joel Price said he just wanted to get the San Diego Bicycle Club back together for their regular, 30-mile Tuesday ride, but after putting it on Facebook, he got an overwhelming response.

Over 400 cyclists sent their RSVP, and even more showed up. Many dedicated their ride to victim Juan Carlos Vinolo, 49, who is being hailed as a hero for pushing a fellow cyclist out of the path of a wrong-way driver. For that act of courage, he is now paralyzed from the chest down.

"This support is the extra adrenaline punch he needs to take the leap forward," said Juan Pablo Romano, Vinolo's nephew. 

Among those who attended Tuesday's ride was Beatrice Dormoy, though she was unable to hop on a bike herself. She had gone through the window of driver Theresa Lynn Owens's car when Owens plowed into a crowd of about 30 riders on Fiesta Island. 

"I'm getting better," said Dormoy. "It's kind of mixed feelings about having been in the situation and feeling luck I'm out and about. It could have been me." 

Images: Car Drives into Group of Cyclists on Fiesta Island Images: Car Drives into Group of Cyclists on Fiesta Island

Ewers, who Vinolo pushed away from the erratic car, said he's alive today because of the man's selfless act.

"It's humbling someone would sacrifice their own safety for you," Ewers told NBC 7.

"If he didn't push me out, I'd be dead or in the hospital," he added. 

Owens now faces DUI and drug possession charges stemming from the crash, and Vinolo is still in critical condition at the hospital.

Paralyzed Cyclist Lauded as Hero Paralyzed Cyclist Lauded as Hero A cyclist hit by a wrong-way driver on Fiesta Island, Juan Carlos Vinolo, is paralyzed and remains in critical condition, as NBC 7's Sherene Tagharobi reports. (Published Friday, Aug 15, 2014)

“We hope this encourages Juan Carlos because he is fighting for his life right now and he loves cycling and he loves this ride,” said Price.

Vinolo's supporters have set up an online fundraiser for Vinolo and his family as they face hospital bills for his two punctured lungs, broken ribs, dislocated left shoulder, broken clavicle, loss of kidney, laceration of the spleen and six broken vertebras.

Pat Murray was riding in the group when the collision happened but was not injured.

For her, Tuesday about overcoming the fears and emotions attached to that horrific day.

“I wanted to take that ride, turn the corner and start to go, ‘OK it's safe here. It's safe here,’” she said.

I wanted to take that ride, turn the corner and start to go, ‘OK it's safe here. It's safe here.'Pat Murray, cyclist who saw crash

Murray crafted green ribbons for accident victims, their families and supporters to wear because the color represents hope, she said.

SanDiego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman -- both avid bikers -- set the pace for Tuesday's two lap ride around the island. 

"I cycle here on Fiesta Island several times a month, so it hit home to me personally," said Faulconer of the crash. Zimmerman vowed justice will be served in this case, which she said "was not an accident. It was a crime."

Suspected DUI driver Owens has pleaded not guilty to charges against her after prosecutors say a bag of meth was found hidden in her vagina.

If convicted, Owens could face 12 years and eight months in prison.

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