Family sues MS Society over fatality during 2006 bicycle tour

See also: Two on charity bike ride killed in South Carolina, Oct. 23, 2007

The family of a 15-year-old Rachel Giblin who died in a fund-raising bike tour in South Carolina in 2006 is suing the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

The lawsuit alleges that ride organizers promised traffic control and police protection that didn't materialize, and they routed part of the ride along a stretch of narrow and busy highway that was unsafe for bicyclists.

The Breakaway to the Beach bike tour is just one of about 100 MS fund-raiser bicycle rides in 48 states. Those bike rides raised $67 million in 2006 to help people suffering from multiple sclerosis.

MS response

According to the Charlotte Observer, the MS Society did not respond specifically to the allegations in the lawsuit, but released this statement:

“The safety of our cyclists is one of our primary concerns. We do everything we can to ensure that our rides are as safe as possible.”

The Giblin's attorney, Judson Orrick, said the family pursued a lawsuit because society officials didn't see their responsibility.

“They don't share our view that the race they ran was not safe, especially for children. This was a very, very difficult decision for (the Giblins). But they are worried about the safety of participants.”

The accident

The circumstances that led to the Charlotte, NC, girl's death have been debated, but the South Carolina Highway Patrol says it won't press charges.

According to published reports, Rachel was a stoker on a tandem with her brother. The bike fell and Rachel was hit by a trailer towed by a passing pickup truck.

Investigators say the tandem touched wheels with a leading bicycle, causing it to tip over. Others say the pickup truck trailer struck the bike because it was passing too close.

The lawsuit

According to the Charlotte Observer, the lawsuit alleges the bike ride organizers promised, but did not provide, police protection along the route; included a 10-mile section of US 15/401 that does not meet safe-bicycling standards; failed to inform local authorities about the ride route; and failed to warn riders about the upcoming hazards.

This was Rachel's third year on the MS fund-raiser bike tour. The family had partipated for years and helped to organize teams.

Since Rachel's death, the family started a campaign “Share the Road for Rachel” with a website and bumper stickers. The website includes tips for motorists and bicyclists.

There were two fatalities on MS 150 bike tours in the US that weekend in September 2006. Charlie Vogann, also 15, was killed when he blew a stop sign into the path of a truck. His sister said they've been waved through by a safety volunteer posted at the intersection, according to the Tulsa World.

See also:

“Share the Road  for Rachel campaign”

“Fog shrouds South Carolina biking fatality”

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