By JOHN T. WARD
The widow and children of Cole Porter, a Shrewsbury man who died as a result of injuries suffered in a crash during the 2013 Tour de Fair Haven bike race, have settled a lawsuit in the matter for $7.1 million, NJ.com reported Thursday.
Agreement on the deal was reached June 3 as jury selection was about to begin for a trial over the civil suit in New Brunswick, according to the report.
The suit, filed in January, 2014 on behalf of Megan Porter and her two children named race organizer, USA Cycling; event promoter Cycles 54, a Wall Township bike shop, and its owner; tour organizer Michele Berger, and his Fair Haven-based technology firm, Forefront; Circle BMW, which supplied the pace car and drivers; and “lead race official” Daniel Donnelly, with whom Porter collided on River Road, at the end of the first lap of the day’s marquee race.
According to Megan Porter’s attorney, Raymond Gill, the case was filed in Middlesex County Superior Court because USA Cycling frequently holds events there. Porter’s two daughters had their own attorney.
The lawsuit charged that the race’s organizers failed to follow USA Cycling rules.
Gill said the lead car is required to have two people, but it just had one. The one person was supposed to have a walkie-talkie, but did not.
“The chief referee (Donnelly) noticed that and motioned for the driver to slow down so he could throw him one into the open convertible,” the attorney said. “However, he (the driver) misunderstood the hand signal and the walkie-talkie landed on the ground. When the referee tried to pick it up, he collided with (Porter), who was thrown from his bicycle.”
Gill said at the time the case was filed, “the conduct of Mr. Donnelly was reckless in not only attempting to throw a communication device into a car but also running into the street directly in front of the racers who were only 10 to 20-feet away from him.”
The borough wasn’t sued, Gill told redbankgreen in 2014, because “there was no evidence to suggest [it was] actively involved in the wanton and reckless disregard of the rules of USA Cycling rules.”
Porter, an electrician and volunteer fireman in Shrewsbury, was 38 years old. He suffered traumatic brain injuries, and was removed from life support almost three weeks after the accident. A redbankgreen article two months after his death described his transition from an overweight smoker to a competitive triathlete who was determined to win the race in which he died.
The accident was the the second in three years in which a rider was helicoptered from the scene of a crash during the Tour de Fair Haven. The event, then in its fifth year, had become a significant draw in the cycling world, but has not been run since.