AN avid cyclist, Gerrard Nieva took the day off from work on Thursday, December 10 to participate alongside nearly 20 bicycle enthusiasts in their annual 130-mile Nipton Loop ride outside of Las Vegas.
The group began at M Resort Spa Casino in Henderson and charted a route that would take them through Searchlight to Nipton, California.
Before departing, Nieva had exchanged several text messages with his younger brother Donalrey as he routinely did each morning.
But in an unexpected turn, Donalrey later received a call from a friend who wasn’t on the ride, delivering news that there had been an accident.
The 41-year-old Filipino American was one of five bicyclists killed when a box truck drove through the group along U.S. Highway 95 near Searchlight.
“When I got the call, my heart just sank because deep down, I knew he was one of them…” Donalrey Nieva told the Asian Journal in a phone interview. “We were all devastated and shocked. This stuff happens to other people, but not our family, right?”
Along with Nieva, the victims are Erin Michelle Ray, 39; Michael Todd Murray, 57; Aksoy Ahmet, 48; and Thomas Chamberlin Trauger, 57. Four other riders were injured, including one who was in critical condition, according to the Nevada Highway Patrol.
The suspect in the fatal collision was identified as Jordan Alexander Barson of Kingman, Arizona, who was arrested on Tuesday, December 15 after blood test results showed that he had high levels of methamphetamine in his system, according to the Clark County District Attorney’s Office.
He has been charged with five counts of driving under the influence resulting in death, six counts of reckless driving, and one count of DUI resulting in substantial bodily harm, court records show.
“My brother and the four cyclists lost their lives, and it has impacted my family and a whole community. We do hope justice is served and that [Barson] goes to prison for a very long time,” Donalrey said.
Nieva, who was born in the Philippines, migrated with his family to Las Vegas in 1991.
He started his career as a dialysis tech in 1999 and then became a biomedical technician six years later. Though Nieva rarely spoke about his work, co-workers expressed admiration for the compassion and care he extended to others. At the time of his death, he worked at Fresenius Medical Care in Las Vegas, ensuring that machines were functioning smoothly for patients receiving treatment.
Together, the Nieva brothers bonded over a fascination with road bikes and discovering trails.
“We grew up riding bikes, but we both got into cycling together — track bikes and fixed-gear bikes — around 2007. I would see my brother once or twice a year, most of the time in Denver where our sister lives. Since the riding there is really good, we’d take our bikes out,” Donalrey said.
Though Nieva was a “homebody,” but he instantly connected with whomever he met and developed his own community of enthusiasts when he got into road cycling and racing.
The younger Nieva, who lives in New York, flew out to Las Vegas, as did other family members coming from other states to attend a memorial at Las Vegas Cyclery on Saturday, Dec. 12. Those who spoke at the vigil remembered the crash victims and called on drivers to share the road with cyclists.
The family laid Nieva to rest in a separate service that had to be limited due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.
In addition to Donalrey, Nieva is survived by his mother Gloria Suarez Fowler, sister Ria Nieva Pitts, wife Cristina Gonzales and three stepchildren.
“He wasn’t very vocal about it, but hearing stories of how he was as a father to his stepchildren made me more proud of him. I wish I knew more about that side of him,” Donalrey said. “He treated his stepchildren as if they were his own.”
Michael Anderson, a retiree of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and one of the cyclists who joined the Dec. 10 ride, set up a GoFundMe page for the victims. As of this writing, it has amassed $106,900 out of its $110,000 goal.
Breakaway Cycling also launched its own website honoring the victims and with a memorial fund to raise $1 million for the bereaved families.