Local authorities chip in to replace bike destroyed in DTA crash
Wade Oyabu's black mountain bike, a hand-me-down that was his primary mode of transportation, took a major hit in an SUV-versus-bus crash earlier this month.
The bike had been on a rack on the front of the Duluth Transit Authority bus at the time of the crash. The handlebars were flattened, the pedals were ruined, the sprocket broke.
"It was messed up," said Sgt. Gayle Holton of the Duluth Police Department.
In the aftermath, officer Paige Grenier was able to secure donations from fellow Duluth police officers, St. Louis County deputies and dispatchers to buy Oyabu a new bike — a Kent Terra 2.6 21 speed. They were able to deliver it to Lakeside Manor Assisted Living on London Road, where he was a resident, a few hours later.
Grenier was among the first emergency responders to the scene at 36th Avenue East and Superior Street just after noon on July 23. An SUV with four young adults ran into the bus — a crash that resulted in a minor injury to one of the bus passengers, according to Holton.
Oyabu saw the whole thing — the impact, the glass shattering, another rider pitching forward — and was one of Grenier's primary sources on the scene.
"He helped me on the bus with getting IDs (of the passengers) and I really appreciated that," she said.
When he saw his bike, Oyabu's first thoughts were about the friend who had given it to him and the way the jutting bike rack might have saved some of the passengers, he said.
Grenier ended up driving Oyabu home. When she realized where he lived, she said, she knew she wanted to do something to help him. Grenier had recently been called to a death at the assisted living facility and knew the mood around the home was somber.
"They had lost one of their own," she said.
Oyabu uses his bicycle to get to the grocery store, the Duluth Public Library and other downtown destinations. When the staff at Lakeside Manor heard about Oyabu's busted bike, "They said it was his form of freedom," Grenier recalled.
DTA officials had said they would be able to get Oyabu a new bike, he said, but he wasn't really expecting much. He was at home later that evening when he was summoned downstairs and found Grenier, Holton and Taylor Stutsman waiting with his new blue ride.
"Everything was surreal," he said. "I couldn't believe what the police officers did for me. What they did touched me very deeply."
He didn't immediately ride it, rather he pushed it into a storage shed and locked it up.
"He seemed emotional about the day," Holton said.
Later that night, Oyabu took it on a trail to SuperAmerica.
"I said 'This is wonderful,'" Oyabu recalled.
Stutsman said that oftentimes, police officers see people in their worst moments — when something terrible has happened.
"If there's anything we can do to make life a little better ..." she said.
"Theirs and ours," added Holton.
The police department posted about the bike on its Facebook page and it had more than 120 comments and 280 shares as of Sunday afternoon.
This past weekend, Oyabu called dispatchers to get a hold of Grenier. He wanted to thank her again. He ultimately met up with the whole crew on Sunday afternoon at the Duluth Transportation Center.
"I still can't believe what they've done," he said.