By Anne Geggis

The woman who drove into a group of nine cyclists along State Road A1A in Gulf Stream early Jan. 4 suffered a medical event at the time, according to a Florida Highway Patrol crash report.

Betty Ann Ruiz, driving south in the predawn light in a Kia Soul, crossed the center line in the 2400 block of North Ocean Boulevard alongside the Gulf Stream Golf Club course and barreled into the northbound cycling pack. The vehicle stopped after hitting a speed limit sign on the northbound side. Three cyclists suffered “incapacitating injuries,” two had “possible injuries,” and another had “nonincapacitating injuries.” Three cyclists were listed as having no injuries from the crash, according to the report released to The Coastal Star Feb. 16.

One of those suffering incapacitating injuries is still in the hospital, according to a GoFundMe page set up to help the cyclists, who were part of the club Galera do Pedal, which is Portuguese for “Pedal Guys.”

Ruiz, 77, who FHP says was going the road’s 35 mph posted speed limit and was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash, was listed on the report as suffering from possible injuries and taken by an emergency vehicle to Bethesda Hospital East. Her condition at the time of the crash was listed as “seizure, epilepsy, blackout.”

Ruiz was given three noncriminal driving citations as a result: failure to drive in a single lane, unknowingly operating a vehicle with a suspended/canceled driver license, and failure to provide proof of insurance. Drug and alcohol tests were not performed, the FHP report says.

Attempts to reach Ruiz were unsuccessful. The FHP originally reported that Ruiz, whose address is redacted on the FHP report, lives in Lantana.

Diego Rico, 37, of Coconut Creek — one of the three seriously injured in the crash — called the report “a joke” and questioned why no toxicology report was done on Ruiz. He said he is facing six months off his construction work and at least $1 million in medical bills.

“We have video of her walking around minutes after the crash,” he said.

Rico has been through hip and shoulder surgeries, had 20 stitches on a knee and 39 staples on a hip, in addition to 15 staples and seven stitches on his left shoulder.

The cyclists, all with ties to Brazil, were on a ride — some riding side by side — that regularly attracts packs of cyclists, particularly as the sun rises. While no one was killed, the sheer number of casualties has brought new attention to the tight space along A1A that motorists and cyclists share. There’s been resistance to installing bicycle lanes along the road and the stretch where the accident happened is particularly narrow — only a few inches of asphalt lie to the right of the white lines demarking motor vehicle travel lanes.

All of the cyclists were wearing helmets, according to the report.

Michael Simon, president of the Boca Raton Bicycle Club, lamented that traumatic injuries resulted from a driver who he said shouldn’t have been on the road to begin with.

“It’s sad and it’s shocking,” he said. “When there’s an accident, the impact on everyone’s lives is mitigated if the driver is skilled or lawfully on the road.”

Two of the severely injured cyclists were a husband-and-wife pair. One of them is still hospitalized, making slow progress back to the activities of daily living, according to a GoFundMe account that the Florida Cycling Family set up.

Contributions have topped $20,000.

“We have one rider still under care and is relearning how to walk, talk, stand, and function independently,” a Feb. 9 update says. “He is still not able to stand on his own and his brain function has been slow to return. We see progress but he has a long road ahead of him. His wife had surgery and is home recovering with their three young kids.”

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