Biker struck by Leesburg commissioner dies - South Lake Press: News

Biker struck by Leesburg commissioner dies

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Posted: Tuesday, May 13, 2014 1:58 pm

The motorcyclist who collided with a pickup truck driven by Leesburg City Commissioner Jay Hurley during Bikefest last month died Monday.

The body of 46-year-old Stephen E. Tuttle, a Leesburg High School graduate, remained in the Orange County Medical Examiner’s Office early Tuesday awaiting an autopsy, according to an official there.

Tuttle’s mother, Jeannie Lawrence, of Leesburg, said in an interview last week she was cautiously optimistic he would pull through, despite the head trauma he suffered in the crash. On Tuesday, she said a CT scan run on Saturday revealed there was little hope.

“Donating his organs has helped his sisters and I put a tiny, tiny silver lining on this very, very dark cloud,” Lawrence said.

The crash is now being

investigated as a traffic homicide, according to Leesburg police.

“Unfortunately, Mr. Tuttle has passed,” said Capt. Rob Hicks, police spokesman. “This does not change the direction of the investigation. It is still an ongoing investigation.”

In a phone interview late Tuesday afternoon, Hurley said he has not talked with Tuttle’s family about the accident but called it “tragic.” He added he couldn’t imagine what Tuttle’s family went through.

“He’s been in my prayers and every day I hoped for his recovery,” Hurley said.

The crash occurred April 27, the last day of the annual Leesburg Bikefest, a three-day weekend event that brings an estimated 100,000 bikers and visitors to the city.

A Leesburg police report states Hurley, 45, was traveling south in a Ford F-150, apparently in the center lane of U.S. Highway 441, when he made a quick right turn into Gator Harley-Davidson and his vehicle struck the motorcyclist.

Tuttle was taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center, where doctors induced a coma. He died at 8:56 p.m. Monday.

The accident turned somewhat controversial because Hurley’s account of how it happened conflicted with witnesses. Hurley said he was in the right lane, while witnesses

put him in the center lane and said Tuttle had no time to react before the collision.

Hurley said in Tuesday’s interview he had just left the Lake Square Mall, traveling north on Highway 441, and had just made a U-turn at a median break so he could head south to Gator Harley to volunteer at a Leesburg Area Chamber of Commerce booth.

Hurley didn’t give details of what actions or maneuvers led to the crash or the discrepancy on him being in the center or right lane at the time, but said it all happened within 200 feet from the U-turn.

“Everything happened in that short of a distance,” Hurley said.

Hicks said the department’s original press release was comprised of “raw data” and the police investigation eventually revealed that Hurley had been in the right lane at some point before going into the center lane and crashing.

Hicks said because Hurley is a city commissioner, the Florida Highway Patrol will take part in the investigation to prevent any conflicts of interest. There will also be round-table discussion of the accident.

Hurley, a former police officer, said he expected a “good and thorough” investigation of the accident.

Tuttle was a server at Red Lobster whose hobbies included music — he owned 600 to 700 albums — and riding his 1987 Yamaha motorcycle. Lawrence said her son was a great help to her now that she’s retired.

“He was a remarkable, hard-working man who loved the outdoors, organic gardening, spinning vinyl, making quirky videos, writing poetry and music ... very independent and private in his personal life,” Lawrence said.

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