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Santa Rosa woman injured in Texas collision waiting to come home

A Santa Rosa woman continues to be treated in Houston for extensive injuries she suffered on Oct. 30 after an SUV hit her during a cross-country bicycle ride.

Relatives say Barbara Ferrell’s return to the North Bay hinges on whether that treatment continues in the Lone Star State.

Doctors have told her family that Ferrell needs to at least undergo physical rehabilitation before leaving Kingwood Emergency Hospital, where she’s being treated for injuries including a broken back, five broken ribs, a broken arm, a facial fracture and a collapsed lung.

Her condition makes it difficult for the 59-year-old to fly and loved ones are trying to ensure her treatment continues in Houston, said her son, Ryan Ferrell, 30, of Windsor.

If that’s not possible, he added, family members may need to find a way to bring her home.

For now, they can only wait patiently for Barbara Ferrell's condition to improve and help her understand the events of last month’s crash that resulted in her injuries and the death of another bicyclist, Kent Wospeka, 51, of South Hamilton, Massachusetts.

“She’s conscious and talking. She doesn’t remember the accident at all and one of the hardest parts is reminding her what happened and that Kent didn’t make it,“ her son told The Press Democrat on Tuesday.

Willard and Barbara Ferrell began their cross-country bike ride in September with family friend Glen Stanley. Their goal was to ride from San Diego to St. Augustine, Florida by December.

They encountered and rode with other bicyclists along the way, occasionally meeting Wospeka and his fiancée, South Hamilton resident Elizabeth Anne O’Brien, 54.

On Oct. 30, they and a sixth bicyclist were together when the collision occurred 70 miles north of Houston on a road known as the Farm-to-Market 787, just 3 miles east of the town of Rye.

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, the driver of a 2014 Ford Escape “failed to control their speed” and struck Barbara Ferrell, Wospeka and O’Brien while Willard Ferrell and Stanley were farther ahead.

The Department of Public Safety identified the driver as Michael Weaver, 66, of Votaw, Texas. He wasn’t injured in the collision and it’s unclear if he is facing any charges.

Based on conversations with his father and photos from the scene, Ryan Ferrell said he learned that the group wore bright clothing and rode single file on the edge of a mostly straight two-lane road with fair weather conditions, minimal traffic and trees a distance away.

“Visibility looked good. There’s just no explanation how this came to pass,“ Ryan Ferrell said.

Wospeka was airlifted to St. Elizabeth Hospital in Beaumont, where he was pronounced dead 1:20 p.m. Oct. 31, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

A father of three, Wospeka was physically active and served as a trustee at Montserrat College of Arts, which is about 20 miles north of Boston.

“He loved serving as a trustee and was a constant presence at every important meeting and function. He will be deeply missed and very warmly remembered,” Montserrat President Kurt Steinberg said in a statement.

Barbara Ferrell was airlifted to Houston and O’Brien was also flown to Beaumont.

“Betsy’s recovering. That’s all we know,” Ryan Ferrell said of Wospeka’s fiancée.

The collision cut short what would have been the first cross-country bicycle ride for Barbara Ferrell who comes from a family of avid bicyclists and who has lived in Santa Rosa for about 30 years. A mother of two, she also was once a lifeguard and competed in triathlons.

Ryan Ferrell described his parents as “brutally tough,” but the collision has been hard on both of them and all attention is falling on his mother moving forward.

“There’s no goal beyond doing what’s best for mom, however long that takes,” he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Colin Atagi at colin.atagi@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @colin_atagi

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