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More details in collision that killed Rehberger near Kent

Fred Rehberger

Fred Rehberger was crossing Military Rd near S 272nd St when an automobile struck him February 29. He was transported to Harborview Medical Center in critical condition and put on life support. Ten days later, he was taken off life support and died from his injuries at the stroke of midnight March 10. He was 49.

His sister-in-law Dana was by his side when he died, as she described in a comment on our previous story:

I stayed with him until he passed, holding his hand, telling him how much he was loved and cherished. It was an honor to me to be with him and comfort him. My heart is broken, and right now I feel that I will never get over this… but it warms me to know that I was able to be there for Fred when he needed me most.

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According to the King County Sheriff’s office, Rehberger was riding northbound on the west sidewalk of Military Rd when he attempted to cross the road near the intersection with S 272nd St. The exact location is not clear.

An automobile headed southbound on Military Rd was “unable to avoid” him and struck him. There was no evidence that either party was impaired at the time of the collision. The exact circumstances of the wreck are not yet clear, nor is it clear who, if anyone, was at fault. We will update when we learn more.

His visitation is Wednesday  followed by a service Thursday. Details, via Northwest Tri & Bike where he was a bike mechanic:

Wednesday 4-8 PM,
Yahn & Son funeral Home in Auburn.
55 West Valley Hwy S. | Auburn, WA 98001

Ph:# 253-833-8877

Thursday 3PM
Kent Nazarene Church
930 James Street Kent, WA
(Reception immediately following)

A benevolence account has been set up to help pay for funeral and incidental expenses. See the NWTB website for details on how to donate to the cause.

Below is a map of the approximate collision location. Police said it was the 27200 block of Military Rd, so could be anywhere between S 272nd St and 273rd Pl. S 272nd is the border between Kent and Lakeland North, so the collision technically occurred just outside Kent. The King County Sheriff is the investigating agency:

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21 responses to “More details in collision that killed Rehberger near Kent”

  1. Brian

    I have a great deal of familiarity with this intersection, having commuted by bike from my parents’ house by Star Lake to UW for a few years. Military Road is absolutely awful. He was doing the right thing by riding on the sidewalk. People down in that neck of the woods are absolutely awful about giving bikes even an inch of room, the pavement is horrible, and the sidewalks/road shoulders are sporadic, at best.

    Now that I live in Seattle, I realize how lucky I am that this city has the great bicycle infrastructure that it does. The south end is one of the most unfriendly places I can imagine riding my bicycle. People drive way too fast, there really are no bike lanes, and you’re luck if there’s a sidewalk or shoulder.

    We do a lot to advocate for safe streets in the city, but the sad reality is that the suburbs, and especially the south end, are completely anti-pedestrian/bicyclist.

    If any good can possibly come of this tragic story, perhaps it would be to focus some attention on the atrocious state of the infrastructure down in areas outside the city.

  2. Gary

    I don’t get it, there are cross walks here, he’s riding on a sidewalk, how can “nobody be at fault?” Either the car driver was driving too fast for conditions, Fred crossed outside the sidewalk without looking. (Possible, I’ve done an occasionally stupid move) Or Fred was in the crosswalk and the car driver didn’t yield. Unless he fell first before being hit which is highly unlikely given his level of expertise. Until we know more, I’m leaning toward blaming the driver.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      There are not enough details to even begin saying who was at fault. Let’s not go down that road yet. We simply do not know.

  3. Gordon

    It says that Fred was cycling northbound on the west sidewalk, read he was going the wrong way. It doesn’t mention either if he was crossing at a crosswalk or not.

    Given what we know, it’s hard to know who is at fault. Did Fred simply not see the car when he decided to cross? Was the driver not paying attention to the road in front of them? Perhaps the car didn’t have its lights on, or turned into the road just after Fred looked and accelerated.

    Still a very sad story.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      It’s true that we do not have enough details to even begin to assign fault. However, one small correction: You can go in either direction on the sidewalk. There is no “wrong way.”

      1. Mark B

        Although there is no “wrong way” on the sidewalk, if he was riding northbound on the west sidewalk and did not cross at a crosswalk he would at one point be riding into on coming traffic.

        Tragic either way.

        Best wishes to his family.

  4. Jim

    Some mysteries will never be solved. It sounds like there’s no clear evidence of wrong doing on either party. So, right or wrong, a man is dead and another has to live with the tragedy.

    Right or wrong, sometimes those of us who ride bicycles, have to give way to bigger vehicles, because the consequences involved are so great that “fault” and “blame” will be of no comfort after the fact.

  5. Jason

    Assigning blame prematurely won’t address anything.

    That having been said, whether I’m walking, on a bike, or driving a car I always give way to “right of weight”… The heavier object that can seriously injur/maim/kill me is the object that gets right of way regardless of traffic lights or walk signs.

    Blaming someone for something after I’m dead does me no good.

  6. Michele

    Fred was 49, not 39. He was a very kind person and will be missed by many. I agree that assigning blame does no good at this point, the investigation can take several months to complete and for Freds family and friends they really dont need everyones armchair detective work. I dissagree with “right of weight” idea it does not protect you as well as everyone slowing down and looking where they are going, allowing time to stop and avoiding collisions. Take the time to see what is around you, stop messing with your phone while driving, stop driving agressively, look where you are going, don’t run red lights, don’t cross against the light. The list goes on it is commen sense that seems to generally get thrown out when people are in a hurry impatient or distracted. :(

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Corrected his age. Thank you.

  7. My heart goes to his family special prayers for you all. Fred has ridden my Emerald City Lights rides, nice man, and this is a very sad story…….Too many cyclists getting killed we do need to slow down, watch for others, life is short and sometimes gets shorter for others…….Prayers are needed and conform for the ones left behind.

  8. Concerned neighbor

    This is such a sad story. Fred was a happy and playful person. He was also very knowledgeable about cycling and giving of his gift in that area. I have so many questions concerning how this accident happend. Knowing that area like the back of my hand I can say the direction he was heading and the sidewalk don’t match up. There is a small amount of sidewalk in that area which means he would have had to cross a very busy section of road without a crosswalk and ride along the side of the road in the wrong direction for some distance to reach that point. As sensible and skilled as he was I would think he would have just rode with traffic the extra 50 yards to reach the crosswalk. Putting him on the sidewalk heading northbound would also mean he was going to go west and that isn’t in the direction of his job. I’m so glad people are asking out loud the same questions I have been asking myself. It doesn’t seem that anyone is out to blame I think they want to understand. Fred will continue to touch people through cycling by creating more awareness.

  9. Wondering

    Does it seem strange to anyone else that there has been no news coverage about this awful accident? I heard nothing at the time it happened, and have since searched the TV news channels online, and the Kent, Federal Way and Seattle newspapers and found nothing. I would not know about Fred’s death had I not clicked the bike blog link far down the page on Seattle Times online.
    It is clear that Fred touched many people’s lives. I hope that this sad event can at the very least draw attention to the fact that as drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians, we need to be alert at all times.

    1. Erik Busse

      I agree. It is quite strange that there isn’t further coverage.

    2. Agreed. We (Bicycle Paper) have posted updates on our site since first hearing about it, but as far as I know there were no regional news sources reporting the accident. Quite a shame, really. I did have a chance to speak with Dana before Fred’s passing. She is a very nice and positive person and was extremely appreciative of our bicycling community and their support of Fred and his family during this difficult time. It made me quite proud to be a part of such a great scene.

    3. Laura

      I too wonder why there has been no coverage. We heard this accident happen literally 25ft from our bedroom window on the other side of our fence. Ever since that day I have unsuccessfully searched online trying to discover what had occured, that caused closure of the road for hours afterward. Just tonight we saw the Bike and Flower memorial near the site of the accident. So sad to finally find that someone has died. Searching again I found this site. Incidents of much less importance are told and retold on local television news. Why has this not been covered? The story of what happened to this Expert cyclist needs to be told. My condolence to Fred’s family.

  10. Isaac

    Fred lived a life committed to goodness, careful service to others, and with an open heart and mind. He faced his challenges quietly and courageously always generous with the wit and wisdom he had gained along the way. I am honored to have faced him as a fierce competitor on the track as well as having him as a crafty lieutenant and understanding confidant at the same workbench. My deepest sympathies to his family and loved ones.

    1. Heidi

      I second Issac’s comments. Fred was a great source of cycling information and wit, as well as being a kind and funny. I’m glad that I had a chance to learn from him, and race with him. This is very sad news. It’s very unfortunate that cyclists often pay for mistakes with their lives, no matter who is at fault.

  11. Dana Rehberger

    This is Fred’s sister in law. I wanted to thank everyone for the continued thoughts, prayers and support. I will be honest, I completely understand the questions that are being asked. But, we have no answers at this point. I have spoken with the detective assigned to the case, and he appears to be a very competent, compassionate man. My husband and I are just going to leave his investigation to him. Our pain is very raw, and we feel that asking the ‘what ifs’ are not going to help us right now.

    Also, the concerns about the lack of media coverage, I have to say that this blog has posted the most accurate information, and they have been wonderful in response to my questions and comments.. that is greatly appreciated. Also, we have been contacted by a reporter wanting to do an interview with us about Fred and cycling. After a lot of soul searching, Ken and I have declined to do this interview. We have several reasons for doing so. As outgoing and in the public that Fred was, my husband and I are the exact opposite. We are from TN, and are not part of the cycling community. We don’t have the answers that people are wanting, and we would rather continue to stay private and let those who know more about cycling handle that end of the media. We just hope that those in Seattle help keep fred’s memory alive in the cycling community, as we will in our family.

    1. Dana Rehberger

      I also wanted to add that we have a ‘team fred rehberger’ facebook to help keep his memory alive. We invite everyone to come to the page, celebrate his life and share any pictures they may have


    2. Michele

      After going through this three years ago when Kevin Black was hit and killed in Ballard, where there was a media circus, it is much better not to have this as a headline story for the family. Although there were some kind and comforting words there were far more callus, judgmental, misinformed and cruel comments made in reply to the stories. The stories themself were highly inaccurate adding another layer of hurt and helplessness to the situation. Thankfully, I have not seen that here.

      The investigation takes time and hopefully will give some closure to Ken and Dana. I think we would all like to understand what happened to take such a kind person from us. If then a story can be told to help raise driver awareness and cycling safety that would be a positive direction and better use of media. I will continue to speak out in memory of Fred and Kevin. If we take care to protect each other from harm by being aware, alert, patient and respectful the roads can be used by all, safely.

      The memorial fund that was set up after Kevin died is being used for cycling safety assembly, riding skills clinic and bike lights at our girl’s elementary school for bike to school month. I hope that something similar can be done in Fred’s name.
      Dana and Ken, Fred and your family have been in my thoughts daily. If you need anything please let me know.

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