Update in fatal bike crash: Mendham Township police say Morristown man tried to avoid manhole, not pothole

mendham township police logo

A Morristown bicyclist who died last weekend after crashing in Mendham Township had swerved to avoid hitting a “mini-manhole,” according to a police investigation.

Richard Klapman, 60, died at Morristown Medical Center on Aug. 23, 2014, from head injuries sustained on the morning of Aug. 18.

The late Richard Klapman. Photo courtesy of the Morris Area Freewheelers.
The late Richard Klapman. Photo courtesy of the Morris Area Freewheelers.

The president of the Morris Area Freewheelers, Klapman’s bicycle club, had said he thought the cyclist fell while trying to avoid a pothole on a downhill stretch of West Main Street, in the township’s Brookside section.

But Mendham Township Police Lt. Ross Johnson said the only obstacle in that area, between Cold Hill Road and Abbington Way, was a “water valve access point” used by the township water department to access underground pipes.

“They look like mini-manholes,” about the size of a salad plate, indented an inch or two into the pavement, the lieutenant explained. They are not unique to the township, he said.

This one was near the center of the travel lane, and Klapman veered to its right when he lost control, a biker who was behind Klapman told police.

The accident occurred near the bottom of a short, steep hill at 10:38 a.m.

“Unfortunately, that’s exactly what it was–an accident,” said Lt. Johnson.

Although Klapman wore a helmet, his face struck the ground.  He was unconscious when Detective Jason Morrison arrived; he immediately requested a Mobile Intensive Care Unit.  Sgt. Steven Bittman helped apply first aid to the bicyclist until the Morris Township First Aid Squad came and rushed him to Morristown Medical Center.

mendham township police logoKlapman had retired in January from AT&T.  He was leading a moderately paced “C-level” ride for the Freewheelers, on a Monday morning, from the Loantaka Brook Reservation in Morris Township, according to club President Jim Hunt. 

Hunt, who said he believes this is the first fatality in the club’s history, described members as “heartbroken” by the tragedy.

Rabbi Donald Rossoff of Temple B’nai Or in Morristown called Klapman a devoted husband and doting grandfather. The family has asked that any donations be made to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, where Klapman had served as treasurer.

Mendham Township, a popular destination for cyclists, has about 20 bicycle accidents a year, Lt. Johnson said. But this is the first cycling fatality he can remember during his 12 years on the force.

“Our condolences go out to the Klapman family for their loss,” the police department said in a statement.



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