BISBEE — The widow of a cyclist killed inside the Mule Pass Tunnel last summer intends to sue several government entities and the motorist who struck her husband with her vehicle, claiming negligence by all the parties involved. She is seeking $2 million in damages.
Carolyn Sue Harris, the wife of Vicente Abril, filed a notice of claim against the City of Bisbee; Cochise County; Jackie Watkins, Director of Cochise County Traffic Engineering Department; Julie Morales, Director of Cochise County Risk Management & Safety Department; Cochise County Public Defender’s Office; Bisbee City Clerk Ashlee Coronado; and Dora Lopez, a legal secretary with the Public Defender’s Office in Sierra Vista who hit Abril the morning of June 22 while he rode his mountain bike inside the tunnel.
The main allegation is that the parties involved knew the tunnel could present danger to both motorists and non-motorists and did nothing to remedy the issue, including providing an alternative route.
Lopez, who was heading west in the tunnel on her way to work in Sierra Vista, was not charged in the crash, said Bart Graves, a spokesman with the Arizona Department of Public Safety. Graves and the crash report both indicated the 58-year-old Abril, a teacher at Douglas High, was wearing dark clothing and had no lights on his bicycle.
The crash report also states that the tunnel “has lighting, but very dim and not all lamps inside were in working order.”
The tunnel has two westbound lanes and one eastbound. A motorist who witnessed the crash told investigators she was in the outer westbound lane when she saw Abril get hit. That motorist said both she and her passenger saw Abril that morning in the inside westbound lane. They told investigators that another motorist — Lopez— passed them and the first driver and her passenger began yelling to Lopez to watch out for the cyclist, the report shows. The first motorist and her passenger both witnessed the impact, the report shows.
Lopez said she heard something hit her Toyota sport utility vehicle and then she saw her windshield was shattered, the report shows. She stopped her car and then saw blood on the passenger door, the report shows.
Harris, who is a teacher, alleges the parties she intends to sue all were aware, or should have been aware, that the tunnel is dangerous.
“All of the responsible parties named herein acted with a conscious disregard for the substantial risk of serious injury or death to Mr. Abril and other cyclists,” the notice of claim says. “The subject motor vehicle crash occurred as a result of the responsible governmental entities’ failure to design and maintain the roadway and tunnel which failed to include appropriate lighting and signage, create an alternative route, and/or failing to warn.
“Negligence of all of the aforementioned responsible parties was the cause of the accident of decedent Vicente E. Abril,” the notice of claim states.
The notice of claim also mentions that there was no signage warning cyclists of the perils of the tunnel and that signs were erected only after Abril was killed.
“It took the responsible governmental entities far too long to address the issue of poor illumination, visibility, and conspicuity in the Mule Pass Tunnel and their decision to fix the tunnel now by installing proper signage is no excuse for the years of willfully ignoring the dangers of the tunnel and failing to maintain it,” the notice of claim shows. “But for the poor lighting inside the tunnel, defects in the road, lack of shoulder, lack of alternatives, and/or lack of signage, Mr. Abril would still be alive.”