Brett Malin, a 30-year-old from Vail, Colorado, was killed late Tuesday when he was hit by an 18-wheel tractor-trailer rig moments after completing a leg of the 2003 Race Across America.
Malin, a member of the four-man Vail-Go Fast team, was riding along a rural stretch of U.S. Highway 60, 10 miles east of Pie Town, New Mexico, when he completed a 30-minute relay leg in the race a few minutes before midnight and was quickly relieved by teammate Zach Bingham.
As is the practice of teams competing in RAAM, Malin’s pace vehicle passed him to continue down the course with the team’s new rider. Witnesses reported that Malin then moved into the road to do a U-turn, planning to ride back to his pickup vehicle, driven by Malin’s father, Jim, and brother Jamie, both of whom saw the accident.
Though the road was relatively quiet on Tuesday night, Malin attempted the maneuver on one side of a small rise in the road. As the rider moved off the shoulder and onto the road, the truck suddenly appeared over the hill and into Malin’s field of view.
Malin’s father and brother reported that he and the driver of the truck tried to avoid each other but, instead, turned in the same direction. Malin was struck and then pinned between the truck’s rear wheels and a guard rail. A Catron County Sheriff’s spokesperson said Malin’s injuries were catastrophic and that he was probably killed instantly. Bingham and the second pace car, driven by Bingham’s father, John, immediately returned to the scene. Meanwhile, the motor home for solo racer Paul Bonds came upon the scene shortly after the accident and the race crew attempted to render medical assistance.
An ambulance and New Mexico State Patrol officers began arriving at the scene approximately 15 minutes after the accident. Race officials were notified immediately, and RAAM representative Lon Haldeman soon arrived to offer assistance.
Team Vail-Go Fast – Malin, Bingham, Adam Palmer, and Toph Leonard – were leading RAAM at the time and after 36 hours of racing had just begun overtaking solo riders who had started a day before them.
At the time of the accident, the Vail-Go Fast squad was an hour and 15 minutes ahead of the second-place team from Austria, Team Harreither-VAV Versicherung. Malin’s teammates credited him for the lead when he pushed away from a Harreither rider during Monday night’s racing across Southern California near the Arizona border.
Malin was unmarried and lived in Vail with three roommates. Malin’s father and brother are returning home Wednesday. The Team Vail-Go Fast support crew and surviving teammates are en route back to Colorado, unable to continue the race.
The truck driver, whose name has not yet been released, was devastated by the accident, according to the Catron County Sheriff spokesperson. “He’s been driving 12 years and never had an accident until now,” she said.
Insight Race Across America Race Director Jim Pitre says that Malin’s loss “is a tragedy. He was such a fine young man to be taken away from us.”
Race officials stopped every other rider, crew, and racer along the route and notified them of the accident. “Every rider, every support crew were terribly shaken,” Pitre said.
Pitre says he spoke with Malin’s father and was asked to not stop the race.
“He said he wouldn’t want it to stop and that his son wouldn’t want it to stop,” Pitre said. “And every other team and rider, after thinking and talking about it, had the opinion that to keep going, in part in Brett’s memory, was the appropriate thing to do.”