Xavier Pelletier, a 16-year-old from Victoria, B.C., killed Sunday in Arlington during the two-day Ride to Conquer Cancer charity bicycle event, was described as a gentle soul and a talented young athlete.
He participated in the ride to support his uncle Nigel Halsted, a cancer survivor, a family spokesman said in a written statement that was distributed to the media by the BC Cancer Foundation, which has organized the 240-kilometer ride for the past five years.
Pelletier was riding in a large pack at about 9:20 a.m. Sunday when he tried to pass and fell into oncoming traffic in Arlington, said Kristin Banfield, a city spokeswoman. The driver was going “well below” the posted 35-mph speed limit but couldn’t stop in time, Banfield said.
“It’s just a terrible, terrible accident,” she said.
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Joined by his mother and uncle, Pelletier was one of about 2,640 cyclists participating in a two-day ride from Surrey, B.C., to Redmond to raise money for cancer research.
Banfield said ride organizers begin planning the event a year in advance and work with local jurisdictions along the route to get appropriate permits and arrange for off-duty officers to direct traffic in certain areas.
“Our officers and firefighters were well aware the ride was going on but were not asked to direct traffic,” nor was the city asked to close the two-lane road, Banfield said, noting that the stretch of Smokey Point Boulevard where the accident occurred has relatively little traffic and is not a major thoroughfare.
“I know they talk about safety all the time with the riders,” Banfield said of the BC Cancer Foundation.
Doug Nelson, the foundation’s president and CEO, said his organization has received hundreds of emails, calls and letters from people wanting to offer support to Pelletier’s family.
He said organizers constantly remind riders to obey the rules of the road, warn them of areas along the route where they can expect traffic congestion, require each rider to view a safety video, and post officers and hundreds of volunteers along the route, all to keep riders safe.
“That’s why this accident has been so difficult and incredibly saddening,” Nelson said. “It’s just been an incredibly emotional day.”
The first leg of the ride goes from Surrey, B.C., to Mount Vernon, where riders camp out for the night before completing the second leg to Redmond, Nelson said.
Another rider was injured during this year’s event, which included hundreds of cancer survivors, according to Nelson. He couldn’t provide exact details, but said a male rider had fallen and broken his clavicle at some point during the ride.
This year’s event raised $10.4 million for cancer research, and in the five-year history of the ride a total of $50.2 million has been raised, Nelson said.
Pelletier’s family thanked first responders, volunteers and fellow riders who came to his aid.
“Their immediate support and tireless efforts give us comfort in the knowledge that nothing more could have been done to save his young life,” the statement reads.
The family, which has requested privacy, asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Ride to Conquer Cancer event through the BC Cancer Foundation, 150-686 W. Broadway, Vancouver, B.C., V5Z 1G1.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org