A car that plowed into a group of bicyclists in New Hampshire over the weekend destroyed a bond of friendship, strengthened through a shared love of cycling, and left four families reeling from loss.
Two people were killed and two others injured.
Pamela Wells, 60, of South Hamilton was pedaling north with friends in the Tri-State Seacoast Century ride about 8:30 Saturday morning. That is when police said a southbound car crossed over the northbound lane of Route 1A and struck the riders.
Police in Hampton, N.H., said Sunday that the investigation was ongoing and declined to comment on whether the driver would face criminal charges.
Wells’s husband, Tom Rogers, said Sunday that authorities told him the autopsy on his wife was complete and that the car and the bicycles had been impounded. Officers, he said, collected a blood sample from the driver and confiscated her phone.
“They’re going through it very methodically and getting everything cataloged so they can figure out where they are,” Rogers said.
In a statement, he remembered his wife of 19 years as a loving mother, capable businesswoman, and a devoted gardener. He called Wells the love of his life.
“Pam was the best thing to have ever happened to me,” he said. “We will all miss her greatly.”
The couple had two children, 17-year-old Alex and 16-year-old Elise.
Rogers said he met Wells when she was a construction manager and hired his company “to take over on a complex woodworking project that had gone awry.”
Theirs was a relationship kept secret at first, “as we didn’t want the owner to think there was any collusion going on, which made it all the more exciting,” Rogers said in the statement.
He said Wells took an interest in cycling a few years ago and practiced for the seacoast ride all summer with her friends Elise Bouchard, 52, of Danvers, who was also killed Saturday, and Margo Heigh, 54, of Danvers, who was injured.
The fourth rider injured in the crash, Uwe Uhmeyer, 60, of Essex was Bouchard’s boss, Rogers said.
The 100-mile route along the coasts of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine would have been Wells’s longest ride to date, Rogers said, but she had completed only about 15 miles when she was struck by a car driven by 20-year-old Darriean Hess of Seabrook, N.H.
“I’ve heard that it happened very fast, that she would not have felt much pain; she probably died instantly,” Rogers said.
Heigh did not respond to a request for comment, but Rogers said Sunday that his wife’s friend described the accident to him.
“She was just bicycling along, and all of a sudden this car was coming at her,” he said. “The next thing she knew, she woke up and it was all over with.”
Uhmeyer’s wife, Lori Uhmeyer, said Saturday that her husband is expected to make a full recovery.
“There’s nothing internal and nothing that won’t heal,” she said. “He’s going to be OK, thank God.”
Bouchard’s family could not be reached for comment.
Saturday’s crash was the first time in the history of the 40-year-old ride that such a tragedy has ever occurred, said Andy Wallenstein, chairman of publicity for the Granite State Wheelmen, which organizes the annual event.
“A few skinned knees or something like that, but I don’t believe there’s ever been anything like this,” Wallenstein said. “Anybody that gets injured bicycling, I think, affects the whole group, because it just makes us aware of how vulnerable we are out on the road.”
Promoting bicycling safety is one of the club’s main purposes, he said. All cyclists are required to wear helmets, and the rules of the road are posted at the group’s headquarters. Ride organizers hired additional police officers to patrol the route in marked and unmarked cars, according to the group’s website.
Wallenstein said it was too early to say whether the accident would prompt the group to make changes in the ride, which continued on Sunday. But, he added, “I don’t think [Saturday’s fatal crash] changes the event in any way, as far as I see it.”
In 2011, the most recent year for which statistics are available, New Hampshire had the fifth-highest cyclist fatalities per capita, putting it behind only Florida, Louisiana, Oregon, and Arizona, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
David Watson, executive director of the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition, said he participated in the Seacoast Century ride a few years ago. He recalled a well-organized ride up scenic coastal roads that can become crowded.
“Because it’s so spread out, it’s not really practical to close all the roads down,” he said, “so throughout the event cyclists are interacting with other people on the road.”
Sunday also marked the end of the coalition’s four-day Berkshires to Boston Bicycle Tour. Drivers, Watson said, were mostly respectful of cyclists, but “people were consistently passing cyclists at too high a speed, even where they were giving cyclists a wide berth.”
Drivers must be more aware that cyclists are on the road everywhere nowadays, he said.
“Motorists need to be very aware that cycling is exploding in popularity for both recreational and transportation means,” Watson said.