DUI suspected in Alexander Valley cyclist hit-and-run

  • Linda and Brohn Torckler, the parents of professional bicyclist, Michael Torckler, sit in the healing garden at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital in Santa Rosa, on Sunday, July 1, 2012. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

The man arrested in the crash that seriously injured professional cyclist Michael Torckler is suspected of driving intoxicated at the time of the accident, the CHP said Sunday.

Arthur Ben Yu of Rohnert Park was booked Saturday into Sonoma County Jail on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, hit-and-run driving, stealing a vehicle and driving on a suspended license.

Yu, 36, was identified by a passenger who had been riding with him Friday when the crash occurred on Pine Flat Road northeast of Healdsburg, CHP Officer Tom Barto said.

The driver fled the scene in the car, but the passenger got out and stayed with Torckler, along with a city of Santa Rosa worker who came upon the injured cyclist, Barto said.

"He's actually the one who was crucial in identifying the suspect," Barto said of the passenger. His statement led investigators to conclude Yu had been drinking.

Torckler, 25, a New Zealander who had recently joined the Santa Rosa-based Bissell Pro Cycling team, was riding down the steep, hilly road when he collided with a car heading uphill.

While the passenger and city worker stayed with Torckler, a third passerby drove down the hill and contacted emergency dispatchers, and Torckler subsequently was airlifted to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.

The crash was the latest in a series of vehicle-vs.-bicyclist incidents in the North Bay that have left five people dead in the past six weeks.

Torckler's condition improved to "fair" Sunday, said Katy Hillenmeyer, spokeswoman for Memorial Hospital in Santa Rosa. He remained in the intensive care unit.

His parents, Brohn and Linda Torckler of New Plymouth, New Zealand, arrived Saturday night in Santa Rosa, 30 hours after they first received the hospital's call that their son had been critically injured.

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