Witness blames pace as biker charged with felony manslaughter

S.F. Examiner File PhotoLessons: The district attorney says people should view the felony bike death charge as a wake-up call.

S.F. Examiner File PhotoLessons: The district attorney says people should view the felony bike death charge as a wake-up call.

A bicyclist’s apparent need for speed landed him a felony charge in connection with a fatal collision involving a pedestrian in the Castro district.

On March 29, Chris Bucchere, 36, rammed into 71-year-old Sutchi Hui at Castro and Market streets. Hui, who had been legally crossing the street, died days later.

After weeks of examining evidence and talking with witnesses, prosecutors on Thursday slapped Bucchere with a charge of felony vehicular manslaughter. The charge was elevated from a misdemeanor because Bucchere had allegedly violated multiple laws prior to the collision, which shows gross negligence, District Attorney George Gascón said.

Bucchere’s attorney, Ted Cassman, has said his client “entered the intersection lawfully” and that he did “everything possible to avoid the accident.”

The evidence proves otherwise, Gascón said.

Before the deadly crash, Bucchere was allegedly trying to beat his own speed record on a popular cycling route from Marin County to San Francisco. His riding partner that day is a key witness for the prosecution. The pal claims that, unlike Bucchere, he had waited for the light at the intersection where the collision occurred, Gascón said.

“We have someone who was riding with our offender who recognized the need to come to a stop,” he said.

A witness told police that Bucchere was blowing through stop signs and lights on Divisadero Street, and video surveillance footage from a camera at 17th and Market streets captured him making little to no effort to stop.

Police said a GPS locator on Bucchere’s bike shows he was riding faster than 35 mph in a 25 mph zone.

Prosecutors say their case does not heavily rely on an online comment Bucchere might have written shortly after the collision. Someone using the name Chris Bucchere posted a message on a Mission Cycling forum about a collision.

“The light turned yellow as I was approaching the intersection, but I was already way too committed to stop,” the post said. The post did wish Hui well.

Hui’s death was both “predictable” and “avoidable,” said Gascón, adding that he hopes the case stands as an example to everyone using the roadways.

Last year, 17 pedestrians were killed and about 800 injured during collisions with vehicles in The City.

Bucchere is scheduled to be arraigned next week. He faces up to 6 years in prison if convicted.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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