Sgt. Frank Guinn, 36, a nine-year veteran of the Atlanta Fire Department, and Andrew Powell, 40, manager of Kennesaw’s Big Peach Running store, were struck by a white Chevy Cruze at 10:15 a.m. Friday morning on U.S. Highway 90 in east New Orleans.
According to Garry Flot, spokesman for the New Orleans Police Department, Howard Vidrine, 34, was traveling in the right lane when, for unknown reasons, he rear-ended the two cyclists, who were also traveling eastbound.
Vidrine faces charges of negligent homicide, negligent injury, driving with a suspended driver’s license and reckless operation of a vehicle.
Guinn died instantly and Powell was taken to a hospital in serious condition, the New Orleans Police report said.
On Friday morning, Guinn and Powell were preparing for the 70-mile Ochsner Ironman race scheduled for Sunday. The course includes a 56-mile bike ride, 13-mile run and a 1-mile swim in Lake Pontchartrain.
According to Monday’s article, “Ironman race: A memorial for fallen firefighter,” published in The New Orleans Advocate, Guinn was tuning up on a stretch of the race that weaves along the highway.
Kennesaw Councilwoman Chris Eaton-Welsh said she was told the men were out scouting the course on a “pretty desolate road.”
Welsh, who runs Eaton Chiropractic on South Main Street in downtown Kennesaw, said Powell broke his back from a spinal fracture, as well as a pelvic fracture. He remains in a hospital in New Orleans with severe road rash and cannot be moved, she said.
Supporters help Guinn family
April Ebbert Grow established the “Kimberly and Frank Guinn Family Fund” at gofundme.com/89mhhs. By Monday afternoon, the website had raised $43,372 in two days from 648 people, including fellow runners, cyclists and firefighters from Georgia and Louisiana.
“Frank leaves behind 7-year-old identical triplet girls who worshipped their daddy. Their lives will never be the same,” Grow posted on the website about Guinn’s wife Kimberly, and the couple’s 7-year-old identical triplets, Isabelle, Alyssa and Makenna.
The fundraising goal is $75,000 to help pay funeral expenses, provide a “financial cushion” for the recent widow and start a college fund for the girls.
Welsh, who found out about the accident Friday night, knew both Guinn and Powell. She met Guinn last year when he enrolled the triplets into the 11-week Swift Cantrell Kilometer Kids program.
Welsh credits Powell with helping to start the program that teaches kids to have a healthy active lifestyle, culminating with the entire group running the Swift Cantrell Classic 5k.
“Andrew is one of the nicest and most determined people I have very met,” Welsh said about the man she said is also responsible for the existence of the Kennesaw Grand Prix Series.
Welsh has known Powell since 2008, when he opened a Kennesaw location of the Big Peach Running chain. The store on Ridenour Boulevard off Barrett Parkway is one of seven in the metro Atlanta area.
Community rallies in streets, parks
Kennesaw Police Chief Bill Westenberger, who learned about the tragedy Sunday morning, said he met Powell 18 years ago while riding up to the Peachtree Road Race.
“He was a little bit faster than I was. I wasn’t near to the competition level he was at,” said Westenberger, who after a stint in college started running again in 2009, completing several 5k, 10k and half marathon races a year.
Although running and cycling is often seen as an individual sport, Westenberger said the hobby is not just for athletes, but participants of all fitness levels that are often tied together for fundraising efforts.
“You have walkers, you have runners, you have people that just want to be out,” Westenberger said.
In the same way it takes team support for some runners to push through the final few miles in a marathon, Westenberger said the heartbreak in Kennesaw’s active community will be rough.
“Anytime you have a tragedy like this it is tough to deal with,” Westenberger said.
Westenberger said both Guinn and Powell were about investing in the community. He hopes his friend is back to full strength and out running in a pack again soon.
“You know when I think of Andy I think of an all-in kind of guy,” Westenberger said.
From a public safety perspective, Westenberger said, “Anyone out driving on the roads, pay attention to bikers and runners.”
Westenberger said the miles of added trails through Cobb have made it safer.
“Awareness is rising, but accidents happen every day,” Westenberger said.