He’s back on the bike and anger is being left behind
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. Mac Burnett is beyond being angry.Instead, he’s back to bicycling. Short of seeing justice done, it may be the best form of revenge after the Rifle resident was hit by a vehicle while biking in 2005. The driver never has been found.Fourteen months after the Nov. 16, 2005, accident, Burnett has given up on hoping that whoever left him seriously injured will ever be arrested.”I think they got away with it,” he said.But he’s stopped being frustrated abut that.”I’ve gone beyond that now. Whoever it was is going to have to deal with it and I’ve got to get on with my life. I’m not wasting energy being mad over this. It’s happened and I’m back to normal, I think.”You can’t spend your life being mad at someone.”Instead, Burnett is back pursuing his lifelong passion of bicycling. At 70 years old, he returned to riding about four months after his accident, and got in a couple of thousand miles on his bike last year.As impressive as that sounds, it still is about half of what he used to ride before the accident. His bicycling has changed in other ways as well.”We have a new routine now. I don’t go (riding) anywhere without laying out the plan so my wife knows where I’m at,” Burnett said. “I’ll have to admit I’m much more nervous on the road and I’ll have to get over that. That’s been the hardest part, is being comfortable out there again.”Burnett was thrown more than 60 feet when he was hit from behind while cycling on Garfield County Road 294 just outside Rifle city limits. He later learned that a witness saw the driver get out of the car and yell something at Burnett before driving off.Burnett initially was diagnosed as having a broken leg, cracked vertebrae and bruising. Later, it was determined he had internal bleeding in his head, and he was rushed to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction just before Christmas 2005 so doctors could remove a blood clot from his brain. Burnett had been wearing a helmet when he was hit.He continued to deal with bouts of dizziness after the operation.The accident left Burnett with tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills, which he expects his various forms of insurance will fully cover. He’s guessing that whoever hit him didn’t have any insurance anyway, so it wouldn’t have mattered from that perspective if the person had been caught.Still, Burnett and the Colorado State Patrol had hoped for a time last year that they had a lead that have at least might have brought the driver to justice. A local glass company representative told investigators that someone had brought a silver Nissan – similar to the car described by the witness to the accident – in to have a windshield repaired after the hit-and-run. The damage supposedly had resulted from a run-in with a deer, but it didn’t appear consistent with that kind of accident to the glass company.The State Patrol sent the windshield off to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, along with a cloth sample from the jacket Burnett was wearing when he was hit. Capt. Rich Duran, of the CSP’s Glenwood patrol office, said investigators had hoped to discover fiber or blood evidence linking the windshield to Burnett or his jacket, but none was found.The CBI didn’t come across evidence that a deer had been hit either, Duran said. And he said it also appeared the car with the broken windshield had once had a protective “bra” cover, just as the car described by the accident witness had. But it wasn’t clear if it had been removed after the accident or sometime earlier.Still, Duran said authorities have ruled out the car examined by investigators as the one that struck Burnett.Burnett thinks police could have done a better job and moved more quickly in the investigation.”I’m disappointed that they didn’t do more, but not being a police officer I don’t know what they’re dealing with. I certainly would have liked to have gotten some positive results on it.”Duran said investigators examined state motor vehicle records and found about 20 or 30 vehicles in Garfield County similar to the one described by the accident witness. He said they tried to contact all those vehicle owners but could find no one who was in the area of the accident when it occurred or had vehicle damage suggesting a link to the accident.”It is frustrating when something like this happens because it’s somebody’s life, and of course being hit by a vehicle riding a bicycle is pretty substantial,” Duran said.”It’s frustrating not only for (Burnett) I would imagine but also us. Of course we want to take somebody to justice,” he said.Meanwhile, Burnett is moving on not just in his bike riding but his job, at an age when many people are far less physically active and are retired. Last year, he worked as a state contractor helping direct efforts to smother and cool an underground coal seam fire in South Canyon. In 2002 that fire surfaced and ignited a wildfire that destroyed some 30 homes in the Glenwood Springs area. Burnett also is working on a bid on another coal mine fire project.Burnett’s not letting an irresponsible driver’s actions interfere with his life. He figures that as long as he feels good enough, why stop working – or biking.Contact Dennis Webb: email@example.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO
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