Woman accused of striking, injuring bicyclist during triathlon on Long Island

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Friday, August 25, 2023
Woman accused of striking bicyclist during triathlon on Long Island
Ramona Jakeline Figueroa-Lopez is accused of hitting triathlete on a bike Sal Gomez in the middle of a race in Shirley, Long Island. Stacey Sager has the latest.

SHIRLEY, Long Island (WABC) -- A Long Island woman accused of hitting a triathlete on a bike in the middle of a race appeared in court on Friday.

Ramona Jakeline Figueroa-Lopez, 29, is facing charges of reckless driving, aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle, and driving without a court-ordered interlock device

Suffolk County police say the crash happened Aug. 6 on a race route in Shirley.

Prosecutors say Figueroa-Lopez was attempting to leave a parking lot while the area was closed for the Smith Point Triathlon.

That is when police say she entered the race route at a high rate of speed and struck the triathlete during the bike portion of the race.

The bicyclist, Salvatore Gomez, 43, of Selden, was taken to the hospital with serious injuries. The father of two was critically injured with a traumatic brain injury.

His wife, Jill Gomez, detailed her husband's condition, saying that in addition to spinal fractures and broken bones, his mind isn't working and he doesn't have much memory.

"And not that anybody deserves this, but he doesn't deserve any part of this," Jill Gomez said.

Figueroa-Lopez's defense attorney said he doesn't know if the narrative given by prosecutors is accurate.

"All I can tell you is it's an accident and she is extremely sorry for the injuries -- thoughts and prayers are with the family," defense attorney Michael Brown said.

Gomez's supporters, many of them fellow racers, attended Friday's court hearing to seek answers about their friend.

"Sal is a great teammate, he's got two kids, one of whom he donated a kidney to, a great family man," friend Bob Haughn said.

Figueroa-Lopez did have a prior arrest for driving while intoxicated back in July of 2021 and she had an interlock device on her car, which was not operational. But her lawyer says that charge will likely go away.

"I'm confident because that should have been removed from motor vehicle over a year ago," Brown said.

Gomez's fellow racers still have so many questions about the woman who works as a bartender and is now facing a reckless driving charge.

"This woman hits him, works at a bar, was convicted of DWI and she's walking free and she's going back to her job," supporter Julie Michels said.

And they say the larger issue is biker safety in general; they hope this case raises awareness.

"I keep thinking it could've been any one of us that day and that's the scary thing," supporter Amanda Ciolino said.

Figueroa-Lopez was released on her own recognizance and she is due back in court on Sept. 22.

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