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Driver who struck cyclist on Pine Flat Road pleads no contest

  • 7/20/2012: A1:
    PC: Memorial Hospital trauma nurse practitioner Tim Dillon removes the sutures from the arm of Michael Torckler, who was hit by a car while on a training ride on Pine Flat Rd. on June 29th.

A Rohnert Park man who crashed a stolen car into a New Zealand bicycle racer and then drove away, leaving him seriously injured, has pleaded no contest to all charges and faces more than 10 years in prison.

Arthur Ben Yu, 36, was accused of hitting Michael Torckler, winner of the Tour of Borneo, on June 29 on Pine Flat Road north of Healdsburg.

Yu stopped briefly after crashing into Torckler, then fled the scene, prosecutors said. A passenger in his car jumped out to check on the injured bicyclist, who suffered shattered facial bones and a broken arm and hand. Yu was arrested the next day.

The hit-and-run crash came during a string of car-vs.-bicycle incidents in Sonoma County that claimed the lives of five people since May. District Attorney Jill Ravitch said it underscores the need for drivers to remain alert for others on the roads, including cyclists and pedestrians.

"And drivers must hear this simple message that if the worst occurs, pull over, call for help and render assistance," Ravitch said in a statement. "We will not tolerate drivers leaving those whom they've injured for dead on the side of the road."

Yu pleaded no contest Monday to four felonies — hit-and-run, reckless driving causing injury, car theft and possession of stolen property. He also pleaded to a misdemeanor count of driving without a license.

He is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 27 by Judge Kenneth Gnoss, who could put him behind bars for a maximum of 10 years and four months.

Torckler was riding downhill on the winding road when he was struck by Yu as he rounded a turn. Yu's passenger, William Frasier, got out and helped Torckler.

Yu was arrested at home after a roommate phoned police.

The car, a 1996 Honda Accord, was stolen from Yu's father a month earlier, prosecutors said.


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