Coroner says bicyclist died from traumatic brain injury

CHAMPAIGN — Champaign County Coroner Duane Northrup said a bicyclist who was struck by a vehicle early on New Year's Day in Champaign died from complications from a traumatic brain injury he received during the crash.

Northrup said that Peter Lewis, 39, of Champaign, was riding a bicycle north on Country Fair Drive about 2:40 a.m. Sunday when he was struck by a vehicle.

Champaign police said that Toccara Steele, 29, of Urbana,was driving a Buick Rendezvous south and had stopped at the Springfield Avenue intersection. When the traffic light changed, police said, Steele drove straight and hit Mr. Lewis' bicycle on the driver's side of her vehicle. The woman stopped and tried to help Mr. Lewis.

Mr. Lewis was taken to the Carle Foundation Hospital emergency room in Urbana, where Northrup pronounced him dead at 7:02 a.m. from complications from a traumatic brain injury he received during the crash.

Northrup said no autopsy will be performed. He said the result of toxicology tests are still pending.

The incident is being investigated by Northrup's office and the Champaign Police Department.

Northrup said an inquest may be held at a later date.

According to police, Steele said she did not see the bicyclist. Mr. Lewis was wearing reflective material, but he did not have a light on his bicycle.

Mr. Lewis' obituary appears on page B-3.

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Joe American wrote on January 03, 2012 at 11:01 pm

This is a very tragic story and a lesson for all to be careful when riding after dark.  I personally did not now Mr. Lewis, but several of my friends were friends with him and they all say that he was a wonderful guy.

This is not meant to distract from the horror of that which this is, but there's something about this story that I just don't understand.  The driver of the car was in the southbound lanes at the intersection of Country Fair and Springfield (presumably adjacent to Wienerschnitzel) and continuing straigh (south) on Country Fair when the light turned green.  The story states, "...Steele drove straight and hit Mr. Lewis' bicycle on the driver's side of her vehicle."  Assuming that the driver of the vehicle was in her lane - which there is nothing indicating that she wasn't - does this then mean that the bicyclist was either driving down the center of the road or broadsided the car from an angle?

Yatiri wrote on January 03, 2012 at 11:01 pm

Mr. Lewis may have been turning west?

areader wrote on January 04, 2012 at 6:01 am

Regarding Joe's question--with all due respect, my response . . . yes, it does.  I feel very sorry for the lady driving the car.  I'm sure she was very traumatized by this accident and will think about this experience for a very long time.  She did try to help the man on the bike.  I hope she can receive support from her family/friends.     

mspontiac wrote on January 04, 2012 at 8:01 am

I had the same question as Joe - if the driver was traveling south and Peter traveling north, how did they collide? My sympathies to all involved.