David Williams packed his saddlebags, donned his helmet and set off last Friday from Los Angeles for a more than 4,000-mile cycling trip across the country to raise money for people living in poverty.
The 26-year-old from Fulham, an area of southwest London, intended to stop and camp in Santa Maria on the second day of his more than 50-day trip to New York.
But Williams was feeling good and was eager to reach San Francisco to meet his parents and celebrate his mother’s birthday. So he pushed on toward Oceano with plans to camp there, his father, Bill Williams, said Thursday.
He never made it. Now, a white cross with David Williams’ photo stapled to it marks the spot where he was struck by a 1999 Chevrolet S-10 Blazer after its driver apparently lost control of the vehicle on Halcyon Road near Oceano on Saturday evening.
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The driver, 20-year-old Aaron Richard Ceja of Nipomo, is accused of drunken driving and causing the crash that killed Williams.
Ceja pleaded not guilty Wednesday in San Luis Obispo Superior Court to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and drunken driving charges. He remained in custody at County Jail on Thursday with bail set at $100,000.
He is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday for a hearing in which he’s expected to argue for bail reduction. Ceja has a pre-preliminary hearing set for July 11.
On Thursday, Williams’ parents shared memories of their son in the hope of preventing others from drinking and driving.
Williams was about to enter his fourth year of medical school, worked on weekends and vacations for a center that cared for children with disabilities, and had recently started rowing with an eight-man team with Thames Rowing Club.
He started cycling for charities about six years ago and had ridden across Cambodia, Sri Lanka, India and from London across Europe to Istanbul. He previously rode for a children’s charity, International Childcare Trust. His current ride would have raised money for Find Your Feet, an organization where his mother, Betty Williams, works.
“I’m proud of what he’s done,” Bill Williams said. “Although he’s only 26, he’s raised thousands of pounds and worked with children. But what he could have done ”
Besides his parents, David Williams is survived by his 29-year-old sister, Laura. His parents will stay in the U.S. only until they can take their son’s body home.
“We will never know how much drinking and driving has deprived us of,” Bill Williams wrote in a note to The Tribune, “when will we ever learn?”