ORLANDO, Fla. — Members of the Central Florida cycling community are grappling with the loss of one of their own.
The Orlando Police Department said David McGrinn Jr. died at a hospital Saturday after he was hit by a driver shortly before 8:45 a.m. on Heintzelman Boulevard near Orlando International Airport.
McGrinn was riding that morning with his group, Nona Cycle, when witnesses said a vehicle came from behind and veered into the bike lane.
“All of a sudden, (we heard) the loudest crash. The impact was incredibly strong and violent,” said Paul Pikel, who was 20 feet behind McGrinn. “David was thrown a great distance, and I could tell by the impact there was very little chance that he would have survived that.”
Pikel said he met McGrinn two years ago through Nona Cycle.
McGrinn, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, joined the group to help with his physical and mental rehabilitation following paralysis.
In a video produced almost a year ago by the Paralyzed Veterans of America Racing, McGrinn said, “I was thrown out of a car at 100 mph and lost all mobility on my left side.”
He said adaptive cycling gave him the independence to fatigue his body.
“Many people avoid that, but when it's taken from you, you crave that again. Cycling has given me that back,” McGrinn said in the video.
Group members said the circumstances of McGrinn's death make it even harder for them to cope.
See how much space drivers should give bicyclists:
“When you look at something saving his life and then taking his life, the only way it makes sense at all is when we create more awareness,” said Tom Moscoto, who was riding ahead of McGrinn the day of his death.
His death adds to the growing number of bicyclist deaths in the state and country.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Florida was the deadliest state for cyclists in 2017 with 125 deaths.
Last year in Florida, 148 people were killed on bicycles, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
Part of the awareness the group wants to spread started with McGrinn's family.
More than 100 cyclists held a memorial ride to McGrinn's house the day after he died to visit his wife and his son.
“Most people were strangers to her, but she knew we loved him,” said Julio Trinidad, who participated in the ride.
Nona Cycle will again dedicate their route to McGrinn on Saturday, Aug. 3. They'll use their normal Saturday morning loop starting at Canvas at 8 a.m. to stop at a designated point and place a "ghost bike" in McGrinn's honor. They said the ride will be at a pace of no more than 18 mph to make it accessible to more who want to join.
The group will convene again Saturday afternoon to cycle together to McGrinn's memorial service in St. Cloud. See the social media posts below for details.
Trinidad said more drivers need to follow the "3-foot law" for cyclists when drivers are sharing the road.
FLHSMV said drivers must give bicyclists a minimum of three feet of clearance while driving alongside them or passing them.
Police have not released many details about the crash, but a spokesman said no one has been charged at this time.
The crash remains under investigation.
The Paralyzed Veterans of America Racing team is accepting donations in McGrinn's name. Click here for more information.
Cox Media Group