Caitlyn Epps and Jamie Roberts were stopped on the side of the road when the two were struck by a truck near Lexington, Kentucky. Epps was injured, while Roberts was killed. (Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)
Local nurse Caitlyn Epps has experienced a variety of tough situations and medical emergencies through her work, but nothing would prepare her for the tragedy she went through Friday.
Starting at the beginning of the month, Epps and a few dozen of her soon to be closest friends set out from Maryland to ride on the 4K for Cancer, an adventure and charity bicycle ride for the Ulman Cancer Fund that is set to end in Portland, Oregon.
A tire change is something that Epps and her fellow cyclists would get used to, changing out a damaged tire whenever needed. When fellow rider, 24-year-old Jamie Roberts, of Rockville, Maryland, and basketball coach at Catholic University near Washington D.C., experienced a flat, Epps and a few riders in her group pulled off the side of the road near Lexington, Kentucky, to help her.
“Around mile 60, we were climbing a long, low-grade hill when Jamie got a flat tire,” Epps shared on her blog, which she is updating along the way. “We were pretty close to the top of the hill and Walt (Drennan) and I said that we should just go to the top, but we decided to just stop there and change it. The highway we were on had a very small shoulder, and right off the shoulder was a muddy ditch.”
What happened next occurred very quickly as Epps found herself face down in a ditch, her face in the mud.
“I stood next to Jamie as she finished changing the tire and was pumping it up, when all of the sudden we were hit by a truck,” Epps wrote. “I didn’t see or hear anything coming. I remember screaming in pain and looking up to see that I was face down in the ditch with my head in the mud, facing a different direction than what I was seconds before. I looked up and saw that Jamie was in the ditch too next to me.”
Epps, a nurse on leave to take part in the event to raise money for cancer research, said she attempted to give Roberts CPR for about 25 minutes, which proved to be unsuccessful. Epps said she continues to ponder how she ended up so safe in comparison to her friend. Seven stitches for a huge gash to her hip, she said, was the extent of her injuries, which was suffered just a mere 12 inches from where Roberts was struck.
“I’ve done CPR before and it’s worked,” Epps said. “It was nothing like having to do it to a friend.”
She said Roberts, who she’d only known since the beginning of the ride, was a certain kind of personality with whom she connected well. Roberts, like Epps, was a multi-sport collegiate athlete, raising Epps’ soccer and track bar by having competed at the college level in soccer, lacrosse and basketball.
“She had one of those personalities where she’d light up a room,” Epps said about her fallen teammate.
The UCF released a statement on Roberts’ death, saying that the ride would be suspended for 48 hours to give the riders a chance to honor their teammate.
Roberts’ family also expressed through the Ulman Cancer Fund that they wished her team would continue on, trying to make the most of the situation and have the good time Roberts would have liked them to have. Epps said they were working up jerseys and stickers to honor Roberts and the UCF has been extremely supportive with the situation, providing grief counselors for the nearly 30 riders.
Roberts’ teammates are getting her to the Portland finish the best way they can, sharing the chance to ride her bike there.
To ride on the 4K For Cancer, each participant had to raise a certain amount of money to be able to take part. Epps, who raised more than the required $4,500, said Roberts took pride in having raised $10,000 for the cause leading into the ride and since her death has tallied nearly $16,000 more to go to the total.
“(Roberts’) selflessness, her commitment to serving others and her deep devotion to her friends, family and fellow riders was apparent to everyone who knew her,” the UCF statement read, from CEO Brock Yetso.
The Roberts family has asked anyone willing to make donations to do so to the UCF at www.4kforcancer.org/profiles/jamie-roberts.
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