Wife of slain Frisco cyclist Greg Bachman seeks to clear husband’s name
Bachman's wife, Crystal Miller, and bike accident lawyer Brian Weiss hired a professional forensic engineer to reconstruct the crash, but Kansas Highway Patrol didn't budge on its crash report conclusion
This is the second story in a three-part series on Greg Bachman, a Frisco cyclist who died after being struck by a vehicle while riding the afternoon before the 2022 UNBOUND Gravel event in Kansas.
In between the June 3, 2022 crash that claimed Greg Bachman’s life and the creation of a 2023 Lead Challenge team formed in his honor, Crystal Miller went to work setting the record straight on what really happened to her husband.
Bicycle accident attorney Brian Weiss took on the Frisco woman’s case. Though the initial Kansas Highway Patrol report’s synopsis stated Greg entered the intersection first and hit the left front side of Smith’s vehicle, Weiss found the evidence laid out in the rest of the report contradictory to its own final conclusion.
Weiss said the direction Bachman was thrown — 90 degrees from his direction of travel — would be impossible if he had t-boned the front left side of Smith’s vehicle. Further, if Bachman hit Smith on the side of the truck, he wouldn’t have been visible “right in the middle of the road,” as Smith turned back from glancing to his right, as his own witness statement reads. Finally, the next sentence in Smith’s statement is, “I hit the bicycle.”
“I think it’s clear Greg was in the intersection first and the fault is more on the driver than on Greg,” Weiss told the Vail Daily. “By a lot.”
The Kansas Highway Patrol has declined to comment on the case.
Weiss said he believes the KHP took the path of least resistance in writing the synopsis.
“Their logic is, this is a local guy who they didn’t want to punish, and they felt bad,” Weiss said.
Weiss pointed out that Kansas law for an uncontrolled intersection is to yield to vehicles already in the intersection, and those coming from the right.
“If you’re the police officer, you’re saying, ‘Well, maybe they approached the intersection at about the same time,'” Weiss said. “And not being a physicist or engineer to work your way back, then he could just jump to that. So, that is kind of what he latched onto I think … just making it easier for him in the report.”
Weiss said Smith’s insurance carrier had initially taken the highway patrol’s report at face value. In disputing the findings, he called upon the services of a board-certified forensic engineer and accredited traffic accident reconstructionist expert Ben Railsback.
“I felt all along, committed that I was going to try to get the science for it,” Weiss said.
Railsback took the available KHP report data — as well as information not used by the KHP, such as Miller’s bike GPS — and reconstructed the scene. Based on what the highway patrol identified as the point of impact and the speed of Bachman — figured to be 8 feet per second based on Miller’s GPS — Railsback determined that Bachman had entered the intersection about 2 seconds before the collision.
While the report states Bachman struck Smith’s truck at the front driver’s side corner, Weiss said, “The pictures are clearly different.” Photos of Smith’s truck show an initial point of contact near the middle of a Weather-Tec attachment.
When presented with these additional facts, Smith’s insurance carrier changed course and paid out its liability limit. A criminal case was never brought forward because the KHP didn’t bring charges against the driver.
No changes coming
Still, the overarching problem in Miller and Weiss’ minds remained: the KHP’s refusal to amend the crash report’s synopsis saying Bachman was at fault.
“Greg was a very safe cyclist,” Miller said. “He would have hated to be seen as an unsafe cyclist.”
An amended report from the KHP was published on Feb. 28, 2023, and contains a slight alteration to the conclusion.
Instead of stating “for an unknown reason, the bicyclist entered the intersection on road F and struck the Chevy on the front driver’s side corner,” the amended report reads, “Bicyclist 1 failed to yield the right of way and struck Vehicle 2 on the driver’s side front fender/bumper as it entered the 190th Road intersection.”
On March 17, Weiss called Dan DiLoreto, the KHP captain working in the Professional Standards Unit.
“We went through all our evidence, we laid it all out, and he just said, ‘We’re not going to change the report — we’re not taking any action,'” Weiss recalled of the ensuing conversation between him and DiLoreto.
The initial KHP crash report states: “Opinions in this report are subject to change pending the discovery and/or development of new or additional evidence.”
“My presentation to him was, ‘Hey, here’s some additional evidence maybe to consider,'” Weiss said.
DiLoreto did not reply to a request for comment for this story.
In April, the case was passed off to Lieutenant Andrew Schippers. In a May call between Schippers, Weiss and Miller, Weiss said he reviewed his evidence and talked about protocol — why interviewing every witness is important and neglecting to use Miller’s account of the incident was a mistake. Weiss said he offered training materials he’s given other police departments on investigating bicycle crashes. For what it’s worth, the Denver-based attorney believes Colorado State Patrol handles bike accidents better.
“And I explained that,” he said.
“I shared with him the new forms; we changed our forms for crash reports that are more sensitive to bike riders. The anti-bicycle bias is clear in this report. He starts with a bias, he doesn’t start open-minded, and that’s one of the things I was offended by the most. He doesn’t look at it objectively, he looks at it, ‘How do I help the local guy?'” Weiss said.
During the call, Weiss said Schippers apologized for Phillips’ behavior, but the lawyer said he sensed his points were falling on deaf ears.
“It was kind of like (Schippers) was just listening to us,” Weiss summarized. “To me, it didn’t seem very genuine.”
On June 7, Miller followed up with Schippers via email. Among several points that stuck with her from their May meeting, she pointed out that “the accident reconstruction shows the driver at fault. This has been reviewed by lawyers and engineers.”
“And certainly, if the report were invalid/flawed an insurance company would not pay out,” her email continued. “Their lawyers would object to the claim. And they were following the Kansas statutes. I find it astonishing that all these lawyers and companies accept this report, yet the KHP won’t consider it, but is using the finding of a biased trooper.”
Schippers’ June 12 reply was short and to the point.
“After a review, the accident report prepared by the Kansas Highway Patrol will not be changed,” it stated.
“I have documented your allegations that Trooper Phillips was unprofessional with his contact with you at the scene of the accident, the statements he made to the paper, the alleged lack of compassion and information with his contact with you at the hotel, and assertions of prejudice. These allegations will be addressed by his local command.”
According to Weiss, that’s where things presently stand. Regarding his overall takeaway from Bachman’s case, Weiss said he’s “disappointed how the police didn’t come at this objectively and focus on the physical evidence.”
“Even the photographs of the truck that show where the impact was — how could they get that wrong?” he asked.
“And then to say basically Greg drove into the front driver side … well if you drive into the front driver’s side, he wouldn’t have ended up being thrown 92 feet.”
For both Weiss and Miller, the attempt to correct the report was about preventing anti-cycling bias in future cases — and upholding the truth about what happened to Bachman.
“We were thinking more along the lines of the bigger purpose,” Weiss said.
“We just wanted the report to be more accurate to the facts. We didn’t want Greg to be considered at fault … Our ultimate goal is to have better reporting and the roads being safer.”
Space and grace
There is no silver lining to Bachman’s death, but Miller has a hope for others: changing the often vitriolic dialogue between drivers and cyclists.
“I feel so differently about being on the road and cycling and peoples’ interactions with cyclists on the road — it’s all so dismaying to me these days, people texting and driving,” Miller said, describing the sad reality that the recent death of promising 17-year-old Team USA cyclist Magnus White, struck by a vehicle while training in Boulder, has “become just another (news) blip.”
Susan Egbers, whose husband, John, was hit by a vehicle while cycling from Astoria, Oregon, to Yorktown, Virginia, reached out to provide encouragement to Miller this summer.
“That’s one thing I will continue no matter what — just to raise that awareness,” Miller promised. “Cyclists have a right to be on the road and anything I can do to promote that I think is really important.”
But Weiss said the general public doesn’t always see it that way. At a recent trial in Grand Junction, Weiss said he asked the jury if any believed bikes shouldn’t be allowed to ride on public roads. One-third of the hands went up, he said.
“That happens pretty much everywhere,” he said. “Since we passed the Colorado Safety Stop bill, people say riders going through a red light, even though they’re allowed to, after a stop — that upsets people.”
The same can be said of drivers angry over cyclists opting for the shoulder instead of using available bike paths. Weiss pointed out that constant intersections, slow-moving pedestrians, dogs, uneven pavement, and other distracted recreational users often make paths more hazardous for serious athletes moving well above 22 mph.
His solution for calming the storm begins with not rushing and ends with something even more basic: grace.
“I think it’s all about being kind to other people and giving them their space,” he said.
“Something has to change in that whole dynamic and I don’t know what it is, but to just hear another senseless death … I feel like it’s just the trauma of the day,” Miller said. “I’m never going to forget. It’s every day for me. What happened to Greg, it happened in the past, but I live every day with the grief of him not being here.”
“I doubt that will ever go away.”
This story is from VailDaily.com.
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