DRIVER

17-Year-Old Cyclist Dies After Bethesda Crash

The teen was riding a bike on the sidewalk when he fell into the roadway, where he was struck by an SUV, police said

A teenager has died after he was struck by an SUV when he fell from a bike in Bethesda, Maryland, on Wednesday afternoon, police said.

Police said 17-year-old Jacob Cassell, of Bethesda, was riding a bicycle on the sidewalk of Old Georgetown Road when the crash happened just before 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Jacob was riding his bike to the local YMCA where he loved to swim, his parents said. He wore his helmet and was on the sidewalk — possibly weaving around obstacles such as poles and trash cans — while approaching Beech Avenue when he fell into the roadway, where he was struck by a Volkswagen SUV, police said.

"It was just a complete cluster of an obstacle course, and he just lost his balance," said Steve Cassell, Jacob's father.

Medics took the teen to the hospital with life-threatening injuries. He died of his injuries early Thursday, police said.

"He's so cautious," said Jennifer Cassell, Jacob's mother. "He's always looking in front of him and I just can't imagine how this happened."

"He lost his balance and we lost our son because of a stupid grouping of trash cans and a sign in the middle of the sidewalk," Jacob's father said. "I'm not pointing fingers at anybody, but it just seems like the biggest waste ever."

Jacob was a student at Winston Churchill High School, according to a letter from Principal Brandice C. Heckert. He was the school mascot.

"Jake, a rising junior, was the spirit in our building and community," Heckert wrote. "This past year he was at almost every event as our mascot, and he was proud to be a bulldog."

Jacob had a kind heart and a contagious smile, she wrote.

"He took a lot of pride in what he did, and it's a devastating loss as we say goodbye to Jake," Heckert said.

"He just brought sunshine and joy into people's lives," Jacob's father said.

"He’s the love of our life," he said. "Now we have to spend the rest of our life without him. It’s just wrong. It’s just wrong."

Counselors will be available starting Monday morning to help students, staff and families, Heckert said.

It isn't the first time a fatal crash like this one happened in the community. Two years ago in Gaithersburg, a bicyclist fell off the sidewalk into traffic and was killed, said Montgomery County Police Capt. Tom Didone.  

"As a vision zero community, there's a lot for us to learn. We have to build the infrastructure in a way that doesn't come with tragic results," Didone said. 

The crash remains under investigation. Investigators are asking anyone who witnessed the crash to contact the Collision Reconstruction Unit at 240-773-6620. Callers may remain anonymous.

Montgomery County police said the driver of the SUV, a Bethesda man, remained at the scene following the crash. He was not injured.

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