Manslaughter Charge For Oklahoma Driver In Death Of 'Bike & Build' Bicyclist

Thursday, January 14th 2016, 5:12 pm
By: Richard Clark

Prosecutors charged a Cordell woman Thursday with manslaughter in the death of a man who was hit by a car while bicycling across the United States last summer.

Washita County prosecutors charged Sarah Morris, 34, with one count of 1st-degree manslaughter and one count of improper overtaking of a bicycle. The manslaughter charge is a felony, the overtaking charge is a misdemeanor.

The crash happened on the morning of July 30, 2015, on Highway 152 south of Elk City.

7/30/2015: Related Story: Man Bicycling Across America Killed In Oklahoma Wreck

Patrick Wanninkhof, 25, died at the scene. The woman who was riding with him -- Bridget Anderson, 22 -- was seriously hurt. She is still recovering from her injuries.

According to the probable cause affidavit filed by prosecutors, Morris told the trooper who investigated the crash she was driving a 2014 Chevrolet SS westbound on Highway 152 when she looked down at her cell phone. The trooper said Morris told him when she looked back at the roadway, she didn't have time to avoid hitting the bicycle riders, the affidavit says.

The affidavit says she told the trooper she did not remember if she had time to brake before impact. The also told him she didn't see the bicycle riders, according to the affidavit.

Wanninkhof, Anderson and 24 other bicycle riders in the group "Bike & Build" had spent the previous Sunday doing repairs on a Tulsa man's home.

7/31/2016: Related Story: Cyclist Killed After Helping Tulsa Habitat For Humanity

The group was riding from Maine to California and helping homeowners along the way when the crash happened. After Wanninkhof's death, the group elected to finish the trip.

According to The Independent Florida Alligator web site, Anderson's older sister filled in for her when Bike & Build held its "wheel-dipping" ceremony in Santa Barbara a month after the crash. The site says riders dip their back tires in the Atlantic Ocean before the start of a trip and dip their front tires in the Pacific Ocean once the trip ends.

Wanninkhof was from Key Biscayne, Florida, but had been living in the Bronx, New York. According to his Bike & Build page, Wanninkhof graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Materials Engineering from the University of Florida in 2012. He was teaching Physics and Computer Science at a public performing arts school in the Bronx as part of Teach for America. He said he earned a Masters in Teaching Adolescent Physics from Fordham University in 2014.