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'It was absolutely horrible,' a families heartbreaking plea

Posted at 8:19 PM, Oct 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-21 13:42:53-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — A family is learning the unthinkable. Their loved one was involved in a bike accident.

It all unfolded on Saturday morning around 7 a.m. A vehicle struck Gary McMillian's bicycle heading northbound on Winkler Road.

His life partner, Laura Hedelson, said she began getting worried. She was out of state, but she realized she didn't get a text back. She had asked Gary how his ride was.

Hedelson then received a text from her neighbor. The neighbor was concerned after hearing news of a bicycle crash. The neighbor knew the couple loved biking.

Hedelson said she began calling Gary's phone. She asked the neighbor to see if his vehicle was home and his bike was back in place.

His bike was still missing.

Hedelson said she frantically called hospitals in the area to find out if it was Gary.

"It was horrible. It was absolutely horrible," she said.

May McMillan, Gary's son, was in Omaha when he learned the news. He said he got on the first flight to Florida.

"Your dad is standing in front of you one day and then you never see him again. Can't see the body. Can't talk to him. Never get to say goodbye," he said.

Jessica Hughes, Gary's daughter, was out of state too. She said she immediately broke down.

"All the memories. All the things we still had to experience together and you don't expect that to happen out of nowhere in a freak accident," Hughes said.

A freak accident that could have been prevented. If there were safer areas for cyclists.

"This has to stop. We have to have safe bike lanes. We have to have more bike paths. We have to have more awareness," Hedelson said.

Awareness that cars share the roadways with cyclists.

"At the end of the day, he wanted was people to be safe and enjoy their lives," May McMillan said.

Gary had a life filled with joy. He often went on bike rides with his kids.

"I mean, I would complain the whole time. Now, I wish I could have one more bike ride," Hughes said.

Now, Gary's family is committed to bringing safe rides for cyclists around the area.

Instead of flowers, they ask folks to donate to the Naples Pathways Coalition to further their mission.

"To create a safe, walkable bikeable community. We do that working with policymakers, so when roads are built or improved that the needs of pedestrians and cyclists are included," Michelle Avola-Brown, Executive Director of the Naples Pathways Coalition, said.

If you would like to donate, click here. Add a note in the memo or comment field that says "In Memory of Gary McMillan."

You can also mail your donations to Naples Pathways Coalition at 539 Fifth Avenue South, #464, Naples, FL 34102.

Unfortunately, this is a scary trend in Florida. Eighteen percent of cyclists killed in this county were on Florida roadways, says Rachael Maney, the National Director of Bike Law. This statistic is from 2019.

She said those motorists only get a moving violation, which is a ticket that can be mailed most of the time. She said change is needed.