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Felony Manslaughter Charge in Bicyclist’s Death

Justice may finally be here for the family and friends of a bike rider who was killed in 2015 by an Oklahoma driver.

Patrick Wanninkhof, 25, was a popular New York City school teacher who took part last summer in a cross-country ride with Bike & Build, a nonprofit group that raises money for affordable housing projects.

On July 30, 2015, as Patrick and his fellow riders passed through Washita County in Oklahoma, Patrick and another cyclist were struck by a motorist who was allegedly distracted by her cell phone. Patrick died at the scene of the crash, about 2,390 miles into his planned 3,987-mile journey.

Manslaughter Charge For Motorist

Bike Law has been closely following Patrick’s case, and Bike Law attorney Peter Wilborn is representing his family.  We have just learned that the motorist, Sarah K. Morris, has been charged with first degree manslaughter – a felony. That crime is punishable by imprisonment for not less than four years. Ms. Morris also faces a misdemeanor charge for failing to leave a safe distance while overtaking a bicycle.

The criminal case, State of Oklahoma v. Sarah K. Morris (Case No. CF-2016-18), was filed Jan. 14 in Washita County District Court.

patrick-wanninkhof

Our hearts go out to Patrick’s family and friends. By all accounts, Patrick was a caring and compassionate teacher who went the extra mile for his students in the Bronx. Patrick believed stable housing for students was an important part of their education, Patrick’s father said in one news report.

Reacting to news of the criminal charges, Peter stated, “Too many times, we’ve heard that a cycling fatality is just an ‘accident,’ but they rarely are.  Too many times, prosecutors have refused to file criminal charges when a reckless driver kills one of us, as in a recent bike-car fatality in Maryland. But not in this case here. We hope this is a sign of a turning tide, a sign of justice for cyclists across the country who are hit and killed by distracted or reckless drivers.”

Latest Update

We received this information from the District Attorney’s Office in the afternoon of Jan. 14:

Sarah Morris surrendered herself on the warrant this afternoon.  Bond was originally set on the warrant in the amount of $100,000 but the judge reduced her bond to $10,000 over the State’s objection.

Her next court date is March 8 at 9:00 a.m.

 

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