Houston News & Search
Photo: Brett Coomer, Houston Chronicle
When Craig Randall Tippit, 37, left his home Saturday to train in Waller County for an upcoming triathlon, his wife Stephanie said it felt like any other weekend when he’d leave for what’s usually an uneventful bike ride.
Craig, a father of two young boys and native Houstonian, was preparing for an Ironman triathlon this April.
“He loved to ride,” Stephanie said.
On Saturday, he and dozens of other bicyclists were in Waller County training for the PB MS150 and other competitions. The ride quickly turned tragic when Victor Kevin Tome, 25, allegedly plowed through the cyclists head on in a blue Dodge Stratus.
Tippit died at the scene along with 48-year-old Keri Blanchard Guillory, who was also training.
“He was the best father and husband,” Stephanie said, as she tried fighting back tears. “He put his family first and would do anything for us, and now he’s gone.”
Craig and Stephanie were high school sweethearts, meeting when they were about 14.
Years later, Craig would asked Stephanie’s father for her hand in marriage – which wasn’t an easy task for Craig, who let his nerves briefly get the best of him.
He sat with his future bride’s father, Rusty Satterlee, from 10 p.m. until 1 a.m., delaying mentioning his desire to pop the question to the man’s daughter.
“We were sitting and watching the U.S. play the Russians in hockey, and it was getting late,” Satterlee said. “I told him that he need to leave so I could go to bed, and he finally managed to (ask for her hand).”
Their marriage celebrated 12 years.
Julie Guillory said her son and daughter-in-law, Keri Guillory, loved to ride together. “It’s just unbelievable,” she said late Saturday. “She is just a wonderful spirit, good to everybody, kind to everybody, she didn’t have one flaw, to me.”
Keri had grown up in Houston, then attended Louisiana State University and worked at LV Shipping & Transport. She had two sons and a grandson.
A third rider who dove into a ditch to avoid the car was taken to Memorial-Hermann Katy Hospital.
After the fatal crash, Tome fled on foot, leaving his badly damaged blue Dodge Stratus, Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Erik Burse said.
Tome later turned himself over to police.
Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis said Tome now faces two counts of murder, as well as counts of burglary, aggravated assault and accident causing serious bodily injury.
Officials have not confirmed whether or not drugs or alcohol played a role in the accident.
Witnesses said the crash seemed to be deliberate because after he smashed into Guillory, he drove about 80 yards farther before hitting Tippit.
Paddy Shrimpton rode Saturday with the large group, but he was farther ahead and didn’t witness the tragedy.
On Sunday, he returned to Waller County to ride in a “Red White & Bike” cycling event to raise money for bicycles for children.
“There are a lot of nervous riders. The mood was very somber, but there seemed to be extra care and vigilance by drivers today,” he said.
“The tragic thing is it takes something tragic to resonate with people,” Shrimpton said. “But how long will it resonate?”
Cycling is a particular “political hot potato” in Waller County, where law enforcement and much of the public don’t like urban expansion to the suburbs and activities like cycling that follow, Shrimpton said.
The sheriff’s office often targets cyclists for tickets and fines, cyclists said. Shrimpton said he was ticketed there not long ago for walking his bike across a red traffic light when there was no traffic nearby.
“I like to say you will be protected rather than you will be ticketed,” he said.
John Long, executive director of BikeHouston, said he believes Waller County is welcoming overall.
The “irony” is cyclists are attracted to the area because the roads are less traveled and it has good training grounds for the MS 150.
“A lot of people feel with country roads the traffic is lighter and it’s safer,” Long said.
Then tragedy strikes.
“It’s a tight cycling community and it affects everyone in it,” Long said. “Everyone sees themselves in that situation. I know those roads very well. It’s a tremendous loss.”
St. John Barned-Smith contributed to this report.
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