John Anczarski, 19, was on a selfless mission: bicycling across the country with three other young men to raise awareness of, and money for, the fight against breast cancer. By all accounts, it was an ambitious goal, but not one that should have cost him his life.
Tragically that's what happened this week when an SUV ran Anczarski off the road in Laguna, N.M., some 50 miles outside Albuquerque and 10 days away from his intended destination: San Diego. He suffered serious head trauma and was taken to University of New Mexico hospital, where he was pronounced dead Tuesday afternoon.
Now the community of Ringtown, Pa., where Anczarski lived and began his trip, is mourning his loss.
On Wednesday, residents painted more than 250 lightbulbs pink in honor of his charity project, "The Pink Pedal: Riding Hard to Fight Breast Cancer." (Pink, and more specifically pink ribbons, have been international symbols for breast cancer awareness since charity evens began in the 1990s.) Others have made moving YouTube tributes:
Even Pennsylvania state Sen. David Argall made an address on behalf of the fallen teen on Wednesday, saying, "The pain of this tragedy is felt not only in Schuylkill County, but literally across the nation, as these four young men were cheered on by thousands of strangers while on their journey."
But even as Anczarski's loved ones come together to celebrate his life and sacrifice, the investigation into his death remains murky.
"The friends who saw the horrific crash said they are angry at the driver who they said caused it and want the public to learn from what they're calling a careless mistake," reports local Albuquerque ABC affiliate KOAT 7.
Yet the identity and fate of that driver remain, for now, a mystery. It is unknown whether he has been picked up or charged with any crimes.
One of Anczarski's fellow riders, Ty Bereskie, said the driver was an older man who lived on the Laguna reservation land, which belongs to the Pueblo Indians. Bereskie also said the driver did not stop immediately after he realized Anczarski had been hit, according to the Standard Speaker.
Originally, the accident was being investigated by the Laguna Pueblo Police Department, but because it occurred on tribal lands, it was handed over to the Bureau of Indian affairs. A press release from the bureau was promised on Wednesday but remains forthcoming, according to the Republican Herald.
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