LAKEWOOD RANCH -- More than 150 grieving friends and family gathered Wednesday for the funeral of longtime Lakewood Ranch resident Donald Mader, the 83-year-old who died after he was hit by a car that ran a red light at the busy intersection of Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and Parkside Place.
Mader and his 81-year-old wife, Joyce, were avid bicyclists who were riding through the intersection Friday morning when a car, driven by 22-year-old Lindsey Damery of Bradenton, ran through the red light and also struck another vehicle turning left, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
Damery, her three passengers, and the driver of the other vehicle all escaped with little or no injuries. Mader's wife, who was bicycling behind her husband, suffered minor injuries -- and the devastation of losing him.
Now, residents who live near the scene of the accident, from retired seniors to busy working professionals and stay-at-home mothers, are very concerned about their safety, despite the 35-mph speed limit on Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, the daily patrols by the Manatee County Sheriff's Office and the very visible yellow pedestrian signs that warn oncoming cars to yield to pedestrians crossing the streets and intersection.
The neighborhood is a major area for runners, bikers and walkers who prefer the boulevard to the nearby near Summerfield Community Park's walking trail.
According to an official report released by the highway patrol, Damery was not intoxicated. However, because Mader died a day later, the accident has now turned into a homicide investigation to determine if criminal charges will be filed against the driver.
Sgt. William Pascoe, traffic homicide supervisor for the FHP, said it will take 60 to 90 days to conduct an investigation, interview all the witnesses, inspect the vehicles and the bicycles involved and gather all the contributing factors leading up to the accident.
But for now, it has created a lot of worries for Summerfield residents such as Ewelina Mccallister, who lives on Parkside Place, where the Maders were bicycling. Mccallister likes to take her two small children for walks in a stroller, crossing the boulevard to have a play date with friends.
"I feel speeding is out of control on Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, and I'm very worried about crossing the intersection. The schools nearby have crossing guards, but other than that, I'm nervous," she said.
Helen McLaren, a Toronto native who spends some of the winter in Lakewood Ranch, across the street from the Maders' home, was saddened to learn about her neighbor's unexpected death. In Canada, McLaren said, they have an unspoken rule to get off their bicycle and walk across an intersection.
"When I'm with my child, I like to teach her to be extra safe when riding a bicycle. It's a good habit to get into," said McLaren.
Jason Yost said he will only walk late at night with his dog because he's seen too many accidents on Lakewood Ranch Boulevard during the day. Yost, who moved to Summerfield from Philadelphia, said that Manatee County needs to install a green arrow for cars making left turns at the Parkside Place intersection.
"It's a very difficult turn, and you have to edge out into the road with oncoming traffic, which you often can't see too well," Yost said. "My wife tries to avoid that turn all the time."
There used to be a green left-turn arrow at the intersection, which was installed following a long-fought battle by Phyllis Troy, one of Summerfield's first residents and a supervisor for its Community Development District. Troy says the area is a bad spot that's been problematic for a while, but she admits you can't have someone patrolling all the time.
"I have to be so careful when I make a turn out of Parkside Place," Troy said. "I don't count on the cars stopping for the red light."
Troy intends to bring up the accident and the traffic safety issue at next week's monthly board meeting at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall.
While some are wondering if texting or a cell phone was involved in the accident, district supervisor Alan Roth, who fondly recalls working side by side with Mader on Summerfield's Modifications Committee, said it brings up the question of red light cameras and speed cameras, hotly debated topics in Florida.
"It's going to get worse here now that development has resumed following the housing slowdown, and people need to be aware of it," he said.
Kathryn Moschella, Lakewood Ranch reporter can be reached at 941-7457010. Follow her on Twitter @MoschellaHerald.