Driver charged after cyclist killed near Key Biscayne

By Andres Viglucc, The Miami Herald January 18, 2010   bike  A cyclist’s hit-and-run death on the Rickenbacker Causeway has ignited a furor from riders and other users of the roadway’s popular parks, beaches and trails, who say it has exposed a dangerous gap in fire-rescue coverage on large portions of Virginia Key and Key Biscayne.   On Monday, Miami-Dade police filed multiple felony charges, including DUI manslaughter, against a Key Biscayne man who is accused of striking and killing a cyclist on Sunday morning and taking off, dragging the bicycle for nearly four miles along Crandon Boulevard.   Carlos G. Bertonatti, 28, of the 600 block of Grapetree Drive — a local rock musician who recently released his first album — was charged with vehicular homicide, DUI manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident involving death, having no valid driver’s license and resisting arrest without violence, according to Miami-Dade police.   On the singer’s website, taken down since the incident, Bertonatti humorously boasted about a poor driving record, which he described as “not clean.” He said he once flipped his car “in reverse.” Bertonatti has received 42 traffic citations in the past 12 years, records show.   Immigration authorities placed a hold on the Venezuelan-born Bertonatti, according to Miami-Dade corrections records. That means Bertonatti, who is not a U.S. citizen, could be deported if convicted.   The death of the cyclist — identified as Christopher Lecanne, 44, of South Miami — prompted protests concerning public safety along the popular causeway.   Cyclists and other witnesses who tried to help the victim say Miami-Dade fire rescue took more than 20 minutes to arrive. By then, several witnesses said, the critically injured Lecanne was dead in a pool of blood. Lecanne was pronounced dead at Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center.   Though Miami-Dade fire rescue has a station a couple of miles away at the entrance to Key Biscayne, it was apparently closed at the time of the incident, which occurred at 8 a.m. Sunday on Bear Cut Bridge, which connects Virginia Key and Key Biscayne.   Instead, the rescue unit that responded came from South Miami.   The Crandon station is open only part-time, said Miami-Dade Commissioner Carlos Gimenez, who added he has been trying to have it staffed full time for a year.   The station’s operating hours could not be determined Monday, a holiday. The phone at the fire department’s press office was not answered.   Gimenez said he plans to bring up the issue during Thursday’s Miami-Dade Commission meeting.   It’s unclear why units from nearby Key Biscayne or city of Miami could not be dispatched.   Miami-Dade has jurisdiction over Crandon Boulevard from the entrance to the village of Key Biscayne to Bear Cut, and over a portion of the causeway on adjacent Virginia Key. The city of Miami covers the eastern portion of Virginia Key.   But Gimenez said he doesn’t know what kind of agreement Miami-Dade’s fire department may have for coverage with either Key Biscayne or Miami during times when its Crandon station is closed.   “Those are issues that have been going on way too long, and we need to resolve them,” Giminez said.   Other cyclists criticized the design of the causeway’s new bike lanes, saying there is insufficient signage alerting motorists to the presence of cyclists and that police do little to curb routine speeding.   Miami-Dade police investigators said Monday that Lecanne was traveling east on Bear Cut Bridge within the striped bike lane when Bertonatti, who was also heading east in a silver 2007 Vokswagen Jetta, left the traffic lane and hit him from behind.   Horrified witnesses say Bertonatti barely paused, proceeding at high speed down Crandon with the mangled bicycle pinned under his car. He then traversed the length of the village of Key Biscayne, where he was pursued by a Key Biscayne police car.   Near the village Winn-Dixie, about four miles from the crash site, the bicycle became dislodged from the badly damaged Jetta, and Bertonatti kept driving, heading home to Grapetree Drive, where he was arrested.   Bertonatti is a budding singer-songwriter who has appeared in clubs and venues around Miami and recently enlisted a high-power producer, Chris Rodriguez, to produce his first album.   Miami Herald staff writers Luisa Yanez and Jay Weaver contributed to this report.

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