Hit-and-run victim remembered by friends and co-workers

MORGANTOWN — Friends and co-workers described Divanté Coles as a hard worker, selfless and well-liked.

“He was so selfless,” childhood friend Curstin Everson said. “I want to emphasize that.”

Coles, 20, was bicycling home from his job at the Popeyes in Sabraton on Friday night when he was struck from behind by a car. He died Saturday morning, at J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital.

Everson said she used to work with Coles, and whenever she got mad at work, he would calm her down with a smile and a joke.

“It makes you want to live life to the fullest because you never know what’s going to happen,” she said Monday. “Surround yourself with love and everyone you care about.”

Morgantown Police responded to the reported hit-and-run about 11:15 p.m., according to a Saturday morning press release. Police are still looking for the driver of the vehicle that struck Coles, near the Greer Building.

“We are looking for a dark colored, full-sized sedan, most likely a Dodge Charger or Chrysler 300 with damage to the front end. The vehicle was last seen driving into the downtown area, and detectives are reviewing video, fielding tips and following up leads. No information will be released pending the full reconstruction of the crash,” Morgantown Police Chief Ed Preston said in an email Monday.

Preston didn’t answer questions about how Coles was dressed or if he was wearing a helmet.

Jackie Gillum, manager at Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen on Earl L. Core Road. said she heard about Coles’ death through friends. She said he was biking home after work when the collision occurred.

“Honestly, he was a really good person,” Gillum said. “A sweet kid for real.”

Ahmad Abulaban, Popeyes owner, said Coles worked for him on-and-off for about 6 months.

“It’s sad and unbelievable,” he said of Coles’ death. “Horrible.”

Coles was biking on Earl L. Core Road towards downtown when a vehicle hit him from behind, Morgantown Police said in a press release.

He sustained “serious injuries” and was transported to J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 5:37 a.m., according to the release.

Road laws

West Virginia law allows and encourages cyclists to take the entire lane of travel, even on a two-lane road, in order to protect themselves, said Drew Gatlin, chair of the Morgantown Bike Board.

He advised drivers sharing the road with a cyclist to be patient and slow down.

“Cyclists don’t want to impede traffic,” he said. “It’s always uncomfortable going slower than what someone behind you wants to go.”

He said when it is safe to pass, the law requires drivers to leave three feet of space between the vehicle and cyclist.

There’s been a national uptick in the deaths of pedestrians and bicyclists, and the general consensus among transportation safety officials is that distracted driving is the cause, Gatlin said.

Morgantown law requires bikers to use lights or reflectors, and Gatlin said the area has wonderful access to cheap community bike resources. Positive Spin is a nonprofit bike shop that has free lights for low-income people and extremely cheap reflectors, he said. The shop will also teach cyclists how to install and maintain the equipment.

“Having a large rear reflector or bright light should be a priority.”

“The bike board has recognized Earl L. Core as an extremely uncomfortable and potentially dangerous corridor for many years,” said a post on the BikeMorgantown Facebook wall.

There are bike lanes coming to Richwood Avenue and part of University Avenue this paving season, Gatlin said.

However, all the infrastructure in the world doesn’t mean anything unless people are paying attention as they drive, he said.

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