HOUSTON - The cycling family of a bicyclist killed over the weekend is speaking out today as area bicyclists say we’re seeing too many white bicycles known as Ghost Bikes, which are set up as a memorial when a bicyclist is killed.
"I kiss my kids. I pray that I come home safely and so does my wife. In this case one of our friends, our fellow cyclists didn’t," says Rodney Rios who was friends with 60-year-old Hector Saldarriaga. Saldarriaga was killed just after 8:00 a.m. Saturday when he was hit by a car along Highway 3 near Dixie Farm Road. "What an incredible individual. He was a great friend, a great father," Rios adds.
"He would always cheer me on and encourage me to get better. He would shout tips and advice to me as we would ride," says friend Federica Pisaneschi.
DOWNLOAD THE FOX 26 NEWS APP
"And the best part about his sharing is it always involved some kind of humor. He could make anyone laugh," smiles Jason Bentley.
"It's hard to describe the sadness that you feel losing a close friend such as Hector," says Tom Warnement who was seriously injured in 2016 when he too was hit by a car while riding his bike. "Hector really helped me a lot. I didn’t ride for a long time. He was really there for me. I wish I could be there for him right now but I can’t".
Saldarriaga typically rode with a group but started early Saturday because he was scheduled to work at 9:00 a.m. He was said to be a skilled auto mechanic who used his talent to help anyone who needed him. Saldarriaga was hit moments before his friends came riding by and a man was frantically flagging them down. "And he kept on just pointing to the grass by the ditch," explains Luis Sanchez who was horrified to find his friend in that ditch. "It was probably 4 or 5 of us just trying to call him to see if he could hear us and maybe wake up".
"We stopped at the first possible gas station and ironically we saw police officers checking on a lady. She was having an alcohol test," Pisaneschi explains. Officers arrested that lady Crystal Reyes and charged her with Intoxication Manslaughter and Failure to Stop and Render Aid after they say she ran over Saldarriaga as he worked on his bike on the shoulder of the road.
"I've been a friend of his and riding with him for 15 years now. So it’s a huge loss," says Warnement.
Sanchez and several others rode to Hector’s house to tell his family. "His wife went into a state of shock at first and disbelief. As difficult as it was for us to give her the news I’m pretty sure it was even harder for her to take".
"Share the road. It’s not just a bicycle. It’s a human being that has someone at home waiting for them," adds Rios.
Reyes was released from jail over the weekend on a $30,000 bond but was taken back into custody today after a court hearing and her bond was raised to at least $150,000. Investigators say they caught Reyes after a pick-up truck with major front-end damage almost hit an HPD officer. That officer then pulled the pick-up over and realized the driver, according to officers, had hit the cyclist just down the road and drove away.