SHOREHAM — Martin Veit and Sophie Gerry were both active cyclists until a fateful day this past fall in Shoreham when an allegedly drunken driver knocked them off their bikes and onto a long road to recovery. Neither of the two unrelated bikers have gotten back into the cycling saddle since the sixth annual Tour de Farms back on Sept. 15, when police say Brian E. Miller, 54, struck the pair as they were riding along Route 74 west of Shoreham village.
Some excellent medical treatment and supportive families have allowed Veit, 35, of Moretown and Gerry, 15, of Williamstown, Mass., to walk again.
And the generosity of Vermont’s cycling community will soon allow them to ride bikes again. The Green Mountain Biking Club embarked on a fundraising drive to get the victims new bikes soon after hearing about the Tour de Farms accident.
The tour is an event sponsored by the Addison County Relocalization Network and the Vermont Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition in which participants ride bikes from farm to farm in Shoreham and Orwell and sample local foods. Court records indicate Miller was southbound on Route 74 that Sunday morning, when he allowed his vehicle to cross into the westbound lane “for several hundred yards until it collided with several bicyclists,” including Gerry and Veit. Police estimate Gerry was thrown eight to 12 feet after impact, while Veit remained lodged in Miller’s windshield until being ejected into the apple tree that Miller struck off the west side of Route 74.
Veit sustained a shattered left scapula, a deflated left lung, a concussion, seven broken ribs and an injury to his left ankle.
“I’m feeling OK,” Veit said during a telephone interview last week with the Addison Independent. “I’m in physical therapy and am getting some strength and flexibility back.”
Gerry suffered a lacerated spleen, a concussion, various cuts, road rash, and contusions to her legs, hips and back, according to her father, John Gerry.
“Sophie was hurt pretty badly,” John Gerry said of his daughter, in an e-mail. “She was hit directly by the vehicle and thrown from her bike … She was knocked unconscious briefly and has no memory of what happened.”
But both victims and their families had cause to be thankful this Thanksgiving.
While Sophie Gerry missed two weeks of school and was unable to participate in fall sports, she recently went through a round of physical therapy and is getting ready for the winter Nordic ski season.
“Her legs are still scarred but otherwise she seems well down the road to a full recovery,” her proud and relieved dad said.
Meanwhile, Veit is targeting next April for a return to his job as a field guide for True North, a company that offers wilderness therapy programs. He has been unable to resume his duties thus far.
“Part of my job is to provide safety for children and react to emergency situations,” Veit explained. “I have been unable to do that.”
Unfortunately, neither victim has received any financial assistance for their medial bills from Miller, who as of Wednesday was still being lodged on $50,000 bail at the Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield. Miller on Sept. 16 pleaded innocent to seven charges in connection with the accident, including two felony counts of driving under the influence, injury resulting; two felony counts of gross negligence in the operation of a motor vehicle, serious injury resulting; one misdemeanor count of driving with a suspended license; and two misdemeanor counts of violating the conditions of his release. He had been under an active arrest warrant for driving under the influence at the time of the incident.
An inspection of Miller’s vehicle by police following the accident revealed a whiskey bottle, and a preliminary breath test showed Miller’s blood-alcohol content to be 0.95 percent, according to court records. The legal limit in Vermont is 0.8 percent.
Miller, who is being represented by the Addison County Public Defender’s Office, did not have insurance at the time of the accident, according to the victims. A status conference on Miller’s case has been set for Thursday, Dec. 16, at 8:30 a.m., at the Addison County Courthouse.
Veit doesn’t hold grudges, but is “angry” the incident happened.
“I definitely have a lack of understanding why people drive drunk in any way,” said Veit, who originally hails from Austria.
The accident happened not long after Veit and his wife had moved to Vermont. He had just started his job at True North.
“The timing was really bad,” he said.
But he and Gerry have both found some things to be grateful for in the aftermath of the incident.
“There’s the great community that has reached out to me,” Veit said, alluding to get-well cards and well-wishers. “The community in Vermont is amazing.”
That spirit of goodwill has been epitomized by the Green Mountain Biking Club, which set a goal of $1,500 to get new bikes for the two injured cyclists. The fund drive ultimately netted $4,000, according to Nancy Schulz, executive director of the Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition and a co-organizer of the Tour de Farms.
“Needless to say, it’s wonderful news,” Schulz said.
The bikes will be purchased through Earl’s Cyclery & Fitness in South Burlington. Organizers are hoping to present the bikes to Veit and Gerry in the near future.
“(Sophie) is eager to participate in another extended bicycle tour next summer, and she is very excited about receiving a new bike,” her dad said.
“I’m very grateful,” Veit said. “I never expected anything like this.”
The injured riders also gave special thanks last week to Addison County emergency responders, law enforcement and medical personnel who helped them at the scene of the accident and during recovery. They also thanked Schulz and members of the Addison County Relocalization Network.
Meanwhile, Schulz said the state’s cycling community is exploring legislation to further crack down on drunk driving. Such bills, she said, might focus on harsher sentencing guidelines and/or mandatory treatment programs.
“We will try to get some gains in the Legislature,” Schulz said.
Veit already has circled a date for rolling out his new bike: Sept. 21, 2014 — the next Tour de Farms.
“My wife and I are definitely planning on it,” he said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]