VISTA — The man who allegedly hit and killed a cyclist in early April was re-arrested on April 25 and pleaded not guilty at a court hearing to a felony hit and run causing death.
Joseph Ricardo Fernandez, 46, was originally arrested after he turned himself the day following the April 10 fatal crash in Encinitas, and said he had possibly been involved in the collision. But prosecutors didn’t press charges within the 72-hour time frame after the felony arrest, and deputies had to release him.
But Deputy District Attorney Karl Husoe said in court on April 27 that Fernandez is charged with a felony hit and run causing death.
“Pieces at the scene were compared to that of his vehicle and there was a match,” he said.
A judge ordered that Fernandez remain in custody on a $100,000 bail.
Husoe said Fernandez faces four years in prison if convicted of the crime.
He also said alcohol may have played a factor, but an investigation is still pending.
James Swarzman, 47, of Encino was struck and killed about 1 a.m. while the experienced cyclist was participating in an organized event and riding with his fiancée and a friend.
The trio had been riding in a line on North Coast Highway 101 in Leucadia, with Swarzman in the center position.
They were participating in a route that began in Temecula and was a timed event.
They had been riding 21 hours and were going to stop for the night in Oceanside, said his fiancée, Nicole Honda.
“All I saw was a flash of light and an impact,” she said.
She said they each wore full reflective gear on their bodies and the bikes had multiple lights on the front and back.
“It would have been impossible to miss us,” she said.
She said that they had been taking every safety precaution and obeying every law, and riding to the far right of the road.
Husoe said a witness saw the vehicle approach three bikes, straddle the lane and hit one cyclist.
The impact was described as an explosion, he said.
The driver didn’t stop.
Honda said that Swarzman was struggling to breathe after being hit, but she didn’t instantly realize how bad his condition was.
“I thought I was going to have a really cranky patient on my hands,” she said. “I thought I was going to take care of him.”
The couple was set to be married in August, and had just purchased a house. For their honeymoon they had plans to go to France and ride in a 5,000-person cycling event called Paris-Brest-Paris, of which they were on the final leg of qualifying for when the accident happened.
Swarzman died within several hours at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla.
His parents were also at Fernandez’ arraignment where they addressed the media and said they plan to spearhead some form of action that involves the safety of cyclists.
Swarzman was described by his mother, Linda Swarzman, as being an extreme competitor, perfectionist, honest, successful man who had a passion for cycling and who was ready to marry the love of his life.
“We felt we needed to be here to honor the memory of our son and give support to Nicole,” she said.
A preliminary hearing is set for May 10 in the Vista courthouse.
Prosecutors and investigators ask that anyone who has any information regarding the incident to please call the San Diego County Sheriff’s department at (858) 565-5200.