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2½ Years after Brutal Collision with DUI Driver Near Los Olivos, Cyclist Succumbs to Injuries

Triathlete Gary Holmes suffered brain trauma, severely broken bones; woman convicted in crash won’t be charged in connection with his death

An avid triathlete and Ironman competitor has died, more than two years after he was left with a traumatic brain injury and multiple broken bones when a driver under the influence of prescription medication struck his bicycle on Foxen Canyon Road.

Gary Lynn Holmes, 59, of Cordova, Tenn., died Oct. 15, according to an obituary from Roller-Citizens Funeral Home in West Memphis, Ark. He was buried in Marion, Ark.

Holmes and Su Chang of Woodinville, Wash., were riding on Foxen Canyon Road near Los Olivos on March 15, 2012, when they were struck by an SUV driven by Alicia Ann Gilbert of Los Olivos.

Authorities determined that Gilbert, then 32, was driving under the influence of anti-anxiety medication at the time of the collision. Her 8-month-old child was a passenger in the vehicle. 

After initially facing several charges, Gilbert pleaded no contest to driving under the influence causing great bodily injury and was sentenced to more than four years in state prison.

Santa Barbara County Deputy District Attorney Wesley Meyer said he considered whether to file charges against Gilbert in connection with Holmes’ death. The coroner in Arkansas determined Holmes died as a result of his injuries from the wreck.

“He was such a fit individual and strong healthy person, there’s no doubt that’s why he passed,” Meyer added.

But he said that after weighing the various options he decided the plea agreement and sentence Gilbert already is serving means she will spend more time behind bars than if he charged her with Holmes’ death.

Gilbert must serve 85 percent of the four years and four months of her current sentence. A gross vehicular manslaughter conviction means she would serve 50 percent of the sentence, which for a midterm of six years would add up to less than her current punishment.

Gary Holmes had competed in hundreds of triathlons and Ironman events, and was a fixture at Solvang Triathlon Camps. (Holmes family photo)
Gary Holmes had competed in hundreds of triathlons and Ironman events, and was a fixture at Solvang Triathlon Camps. (Holmes family photo)

“We definitely considered all of our options,” Meyer said.

Holmes, who worked in the Information Technology Department for Memphis-based FedEx, was found with traumatic brain injury, broken legs and arms with the bones protruding through his skin, 11 broken ribs that punctured both lungs, and other injuries.

He and Chang, who suffered a broken arm and leg, were attending Solvang Triathlon Camps — his eighth time — when the crash occurred.

Holmes had competed in hundreds of triathlons and completed 30 Ironman events.

After the crash, he was confined to a wheelchair he couldn’t operate himself, but was able to laugh and smile some.

In a victim-impact statement posted at the Team Gary website, Holmes’ sister, Debbie Jones, shared the family’s hope that the safety of cyclists will become a concern for all motorists and bicyclists alike.

“Too many horrible accidents and deaths have already occurred,” she said. “Not one more family should be put through the pain and loss that we feel.”

The BikinginLA website noted Holmes’ death with a post titled “Finally, the Foxen Canyon tragedy is complete, as a mother sits behind bars and a cyclist slowly slipped away.”

At his Oct. 20 funeral, Holmes’ friends wore the gear of the Terrapin triathlon team to which he belonged and participated in a bicycle procession to the cemetery from the funeral home. The demonstration was also intended to promote bicycle safety.

Holmes is survived by his father, Jackie Holmes, and sister, both of West Memphis, Ark., and nine nephews and nieces.

In lieu of flowers, the family asked that donations be made to the Eric Okerblom Foundation, c/o Eiline and Bob Okerblom, 1014 Fairway Vista Drive, Santa Maria 93455, or When Sean Speaks Inc., 7324 Gaston Ave., Suite 124-344, Dallas 75214.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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