Milton teen dies in Ark. bike accident
Was on cross-country trip with group when car struck 7 riders
A Milton teenager has died from injuries she sustained when she and six other bicyclists were struck by a car in rural Arkansas on Tuesday, authorities said.
Merritt Levitan, 18, who graduated from Milton Academy in June, was taking part in a cross-country bicycle tour led by Overland, a summer camps program based in Williamstown.
The trip left from Charleston, S.C., and was destined for Los Angeles.
The group of 13 cyclists was traveling north on State Highway 17, two miles north of McCrory, Ark., about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday when a car driven by a 21-year-old woman struck seven of the riders, according to Arkansas State Police.
Three cyclists were taken by helicopter to hospitals in Memphis and Little Rock, Ark. Four others were taken by ambulance to local hospitals, officials said.
It is unclear when Levitan died. Two people remained hospitalized in stable condition on Thursday, Overland director Jonathan Igoe said.
Overland officials could not be reached to provide further information about the other victims.
Levitan was a cocaptain of the Milton Academy girls varsity tennis team and was planning to attend Colgate University in the fall, friends said. She was also on the editorial board of The Milton Paper, the school’s independent weekly student newspaper.
“The best way to describe her is that she is the person everyone went to with any kind of problem,” said Abby Lebovitz, 17. “She was always there for anyone. It didn’t matter if she wasn’t your best friend; she was just there.”
Lebovitz, who played with Levitan on the tennis team, said Levitan had a sense of maturity beyond her 18 years.
“She was not your average high school girl. She was really a role model for the freshmen on the team,” she said. “She was also such an example for her sister and brother.”
Levitan had long been talking about the bike trip she was planning for the summer before college. Preparing for the more-than-3,000-mile ride became part of her daily routine.
“She had been training for it by riding every single day,” said Kendall Hall, 17, who also played on the tennis team with Levitan. “She talked about it all the time; she would ride her bike to practice. She was really excited about it.”
Levitan’s parents are prominent in Boston’s philanthropic community. Richard Levitan is president of Neighborhood Pay Services. Anna Cheshire Levitan is founder and president of 5th Street East production and launch company.
Arkansas State Police said the investigation is ongoing, and the Woodruff County prosecuting attorney will determine whether to bring charges against the driver, Teagan Ross Martin of Newport, Ark. Martin was not injured in the crash, police said.
Early on Thursday, Overland decided to cancel the remainder of the cross-country trek, which was scheduled to conclude in about a month.
“At this point, we believe that this is what needs to be done to allow all involved time to process their thoughts and emotions while surrounded by loved ones,” Tom and Liz Costley, Overland’s founders and directors, said in a prepared statement.