Sixteen-year-old Conor Lynch, a Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame cross country runner was on a typical training run with his teammates on Tuesday afternoon. Trailing his teammates, Lynch tried to make up time by running across Woodman Avenue mid-block, and not at a crosswalk. The decision cost Lynch his life.
According to KTLA, the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press, among other news outlets, Lynch was struck in a hit-and-run accident and died on impact. Multiple sources later reported the driver who fled the scene was 18-year-old Moran Biton, who turned herself in shortly thereafter and now faces felony charges.
"We heard the thump. We heard two kids yelling 'Oh my God, oh my God,' " Marvin Marshall, who witnessed the accident, told KTLA. "[A doctor who happened to arrive at the scene] said his legs were blue and there was nothing else they could do."
Biton reportedly stopped a block up the road where she saw a police officer and admitted she hit a pedestrian. However, since she did not immediately stop and try to help Lynch, Biton ran afoul of hit-and-run laws.
"Technically the law requires that you stop and render aid and she did not do that," LAPD Capt. Bill Sutton told KTLA.
Lynch's school and the Los Angeles running community are in shock over the accident and its repercussions. Notre Dame high school held a prayer vigil in Lynch's honor on Wednesday, all while cross country coaches from across the area tried to re-assess the risks their student athletes face each time they take to the streets for training runs.
"It's a danger inherent in that sport," Lake Balboa Birmingham cross country coach Scott King told the Los Angeles Times. "[An accident like Lynch's is] My greatest fear as a coach. I never feel good until everyone is back."
Lynch's accident isn't the first of its kind in the L.A. area, either. Just last fall a North Hills Monroe High School runner was injured when he was hit by a car which ran a red light. Hernan Herrera recovered from the accident, but had to recuperate from both a broken pelvis and knee injury suffered in the crash.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Unified School District is trying to minimize the risk high school runners face by issuing a safety alert aimed at cross country coaches. The warning, which was released late Wednesday, calls for athletes to always run on the sidewalk, wear bright clothing, cross only at sidewalks and to stop using headphones at all street crossings.
Yet as many good intentions as coaches and athletes may have, they can't eliminate serious risk inherent in a sport which requires long stretches of land, regardless of human and auto traffic.
"You wouldn't have anyone out for the sport if you just ran circles," King told the Times. "You can't run 10 miles in circles. That's 40 laps. The kids wouldn't do it."