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Collision sends cyclist to hospital

Doctors keep watch on spinal swelling

Posted: July 6, 2009 9:55 p.m.
Updated: July 7, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
Members of a Valencia church are walking by faith after one of their own was the victim of a hit-and-run while bicycling and wound up in the hospital with major spinal injuries on the holiday weekend.

Kevin Mather, 26, of Saugus, was one of 11 men from Copperhill Community Church who were on a 55-mile bicycle ride Friday morning.

About a quarter-mile north of Le Chene French Cuisine on Sierra Highway, Mather had gotten ahead of the rest of the group.

When Ryan House of Newhall rounded a curve in the road, he saw Mather's yellow bike laying in the middle of the road and cars pulling off on the shoulder.

Mather was sprawled out on the side of the road, bleeding from the head.

"It's something you don't ever want to see," House said Monday.

Mather had been struck from behind by a 2006 Chevrolet Silverado pickup driven by Emilio Ramirez, 37, of Agua Dulce, and thrown from his bike, according to a California Highway Patrol report.

Ramirez eventually returned to the scene. He was not arrested, and the collision is under investigation by the CHP, said Officer John Lutz of the Highway Patrol's Newhall-area station.

Mather was airlifted to Los Angeles County USC Medical Center, where he underwent 12 hours of surgery Friday and remained stable on Monday.

While he has sensation, Mather is unable to move his legs and has two metal bars and 12 screws in his back supporting his spine, according to a note from Mather's father, posted at www.kevinsrecovery.com.

He also underwent plastic surgery for a several-inch gash on his forehead.

For 24 hours, doctors are keeping him flat on his back and waiting for the swelling in his back to go down, said Teri Astorga, whose husband Gabe was one of the riders with Mather on Friday.

"I think it's too early to say (what's going to happen)," she said. "I think the reality is scary, (but it helps) knowing that Kevin is in good physical shape. It seems we've got a fighter."

Pastor Brian Howard visited Mather on Monday and said: "He was in relatively good spirits considering the circumstances.

"I just wanted to try to go in and encourage them."

Howard said he has been riding with Mather for the past year, and described him as an advanced cyclist.

Nigel Stout was the third cyclist to arrive on the scene and said he initially feared the worst.

"I thought he was dead (at first)," he said. "It's a miracle that he's alive. He was completely conscious (and) barking out orders."

Stout said the group of men frequently go on long rides on Saturdays, and he described Mather, who is tall and lean, as an avid cyclist and a strong rider. He said Mather was in the midst of training for a triathlon.

"I know God was there with him," Stout said. "He should have bled out and died there."

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