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One bicyclist dies, another critically injured in hit and run crash | Crime

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One bicyclist dies, another critically injured in hit and run crash
Crime

Clearwater, FL -- A young Largo couple was struck by a hit and run driver just before sunrise on Labor Day as they were riding a bike along Memorial Causeway in Clearwater.

Police are still searching for the driver.

Hilary Michalak, 27, was airlifted to Bayfront Medical Center. Her boyfriend, Robert Lemon, 26, was taken by ambulance to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, where he later died. Michalak is still hospitalized with critical injuries.

PHOTOS: 2 bicyclists hit on tandem bike on Memorial Causeway

The victims are a young couple from Michigan. They chose a bicycle built for two, so they could spend more time together. And since they weren't used to the warm weather yet, friends say they'd often ride in the early morning before it got too hot out.

Friends figure it was some time around 6:30 on Monday morning when Lemon and Michalak were struck on their tandem bicycle.

The two had recently moved to Florida after falling in love with the area during a vacation. About a month ago, Robert -- an avid rider -- bought a bicycle built for two so he could introduce Hilary to the sport.

Shawn Privitera, a neighbor, told 10 News, "He's a manager at a bike shop, and so they're always out biking. Super nice."

Police say the couple, riding east on the causeway, were likely struck from behind with such force that the mangled frame landed nearly a hundred feet from the point of impact.

Hilary and Robert were found lying in the bike path another 50 feet apart. 

Friends want the driver who fled the scene punished.

"Hit and run? Pay the price," said neighbor Chris Privitera.

There are traffic cameras at the intersection, but no word yet if any images were captured.

Riders say this happens far too often. Drivers don't obey the three-foot rule, clipping them or their bikes, and sometimes don't even realize it.

"I've been hit -- clipped by a lady that didn't even know I was there," said Pete LaPointe, a bicycle rider in the same area a few hours later.

Charlie Thomas says he stays out of the bike path if at all possible, opting for trails.

"I got hit the shoulder once with a mirror from a van. And they don't even know it. They just keep going," he said.

But in this case, Frank Lopez, who owns the Ride-n-Roll bicycle shop in Largo where Robert worked as a manager, says there's no way the driver didn't realize he'd hit something.

"No, it's impossible," said Lopez. 

The tandem bike itself, he says, plus Robert and Hilary's additional combined weight, would've simply too heavy to have gone unnoticed.

"He loved riding his bike. He moved here because he wanted to ride his bike," said Lopez. "He was willing to invest the time and buy the tandem and get her to understand how much fun it is to be out there riding on the road and just be out there riding a bicycle."

Robert, says Lopez, was very safety conscious. His tandem bike, they say, was fully loaded with safety gear and lights.

Witnesses in the area around that time of day are asked to call Clearwater Police. Also, anyone who may learn information or suspect a recently damaged car may have been involved in the accident is urged to do the same.

Follow 10 News Reporter Eric Glasser on twitter @ericglassertv

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