Tom Steinert-Threlkeld had a huge lust for life. He would ride his bike 100 miles in search of a cider doughnut or slice of homemade pie.
An avid cyclist with a big heart, Tom, 59, was the organizer of several local cycling events, including a ride through historic Ridgefield, and the Ride of Silence in Westport, to honor those who were killed or injured on public roads while riding.
A few weeks ago Tom sent my newspaper an email saying he planned to organize a Ride of Silence for AJ Cina, a 12-year old Weston boy who died tragically in July while riding his bike down a hill and crashing into a stone wall.
Then the irony of ironies struck.
Last Sunday afternoon, Oct. 20, while on a cycling jaunt to Blue Jay Orchards in nearby Bethel, no doubt to sample their famous cider doughnuts, Tom himself was killed in a cycling accident.
Police say a car turned in front of him at an intersection, striking him with the side of the vehicle, and throwing him to the ground moments before a second vehicle struck him. The first vehicle sped away and left the scene. Tom became stuck beneath the second vehicle and had to be extricated by firefighters.
Initially, Tom’s wife Kayte thought he had died quickly. While discussing his obituary with me for publication in our paper, Kayte said with a shaking voice that she was grateful that he at least died without pain. She later learned that his death was not instantaneous. He was alive in the ambulance as it sped toward the hospital. In his last moments of life, Tom had suffered.
A week later, police still don’t know the identity of the driver who left the scene in this hit and run accident. They’ve issued a description of the vehicle — a silver, medium-gray or dark-gray sedan with tinted windows, possibly an Acura.
Witnesses say the driver appeared to be a white or Hispanic man in his early to mid-20s with a medium build, thin facial hair along his jaw line and an earring in his left ear.
I’m writing this blog post and tagging it in the hopes that this man will come forward to bring some closure to a grieving family and the people who loved and admired Tom Steinert-Threlkeld.
So sir, this is directed to you. You are carrying around a huge load of guilt right now. Your actions, at least in part, were responsible for the loss of another person’s life. Nothing can change that, what’s done is done. Who knows why you sped away. Perhaps you were impaired somehow and didn’t want to face the consequences or legal ramifications. You were scared. You ran.
You are probably coming to the gradual realization now that you can never run away from this tragedy, not fully, not ever. Every waking moment of every single day of the rest of your life, you will carry the burden of knowing what you did. You will replay that one fatal moment over in your mind again and again and again… and again. Leaving that scene, as you did, was unconscionable. It was cold, uncaring. Inhuman. And it was wrong. Very wrong.
Yes, when you come forward you will have to face consequences for your actions. It won’t be easy. But you’ll get to tell your side of the story. Perhaps things aren’t as they appeared. What happened?
You’ll also provide a modicum of comfort to those who are hurting badly. Including yourself.
Do the right thing.
Sgt. Steve Pugner, at 203-744-7900, is awaiting your call.