Turners woman charged in cyclist’s death

Last modified: 1/6/2016 9:20:27 AM
DEERFIELD — The driver in an accident on Routes 5 and 10 that claimed the life of a bicyclist in July has pleaded innocent to a charge of motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation.

Karen A. Sanders, 68, of 6 Greenfield Road, Turners Falls, is charged in the death of Chester F. Tela, a homeless man from of the Franklin County area. Sanders was arraigned Tuesday in Greenfield District Court.

Sanders’ car struck Tela’s bicycle from behind just after 4 p.m. July 21 after drifting from the northbound travel lane into the breakdown lane of Routes 5 and 10, opposite the mouth of Mill Village Road. Sanders stopped and assisted Tela until the ambulance arrived, according to the crash report filed with court documents.

Tela died in the hospital early the following morning. According to Deerfield Police Sgt. Harry Ruddock’s report, the autopsy confirmed that Tela died as a result of injuries in the crash.

At the scene and in an interview the next day, Sanders told police she had looked to her left at the Sunoco gas station construction, then saw the bicyclist, tried to correct her direction and thought she would miss him. She told police she had been experiencing “equilibrium issues” and had an MRI scan the night before but felt fine that day. Two witnesses, one driving in front and one behind, reported seeing Sanders’ car drift into the breakdown lane a number of times before the crash, according to the report.

Ruddock wrote that Sanders’ primary care physician concluded after tests and exams that Sanders had no medical issues that would cause her to weave in and out of her lane, and the state police Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Section found no mechanical issues with the car.

Judge William F. Mazanec III ordered Sanders released on her own recognizance until her next court date, Feb. 4.

Tela’s death is memorialized by a “ghost bike,” a white-painted bicycle propped up near the site of the accident.


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