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| Cycling |

County Commissioners Admit 'Errors' in Carlos Bertonatti Case; Bikers Protest

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Bart Sherwood passes the grisly photos around the Miami-Dade County Commission chambers.


​In the first image, his face is scraped and swollen, his arms are wrapped in plaster, and IVs run into his body. In the other, one ass cheek is completely covered in gauze, and his back is a mess of cuts and gouges.

"That was me ten years ago," Sherwood says. "I got hit not ten feet from where Christophe Le Canne died. I've been talking about it ever since, but nothing's changed."

Sherwood was one of a few dozen cyclists who showed up at the county commission chambers yesterday to protest Sunday's grisly accident on the Rickenbacker Causeway, where Le Canne was killed by Carlos Bertonatti, a 28-year-old singer with a horrific driving record who drunkenly sped away with Le Canne's bike wedged under his car.

Everyone in the chambers agreed something went very wrong on that bridge Sunday, because rescue units took more than 20 minutes to respond to Le Canne. He bled to death in the meantime.

What was less clear was exactly what went wrong. To Commissioner Carlos Gimenez, the culprit was budget cuts that shuttered a nearby fire station. To County Manager George Burgess, it was a screwup by Miami-Dade Fire Rescue dispatchers. To Sherwood, it was much simpler.

"Nothing's going to change until you decide to start enforcing traffic laws and taking down some speeders out there," he says.

Thursday's hearing centered on Station 15, a firehouse near Crandon Park that was reduced to part-time hours last year because of budget cuts.


The station was the closest to Sunday's accident but wasn't open at the time. Instead, South Miami units responded and took 20-plus minutes to arrive.

Giminez lashes out at Burgess during the meeting, demanding to know why a recent 25 cent increase on Rickenbacker tolls didn't go toward keeping the firehouse open as he says he was promised it would be.

"If the money didn't go there, I need to know why," he says, staring at Burgess. "That's the whole reason we passed this increase."

But Burgess says there were "statutory issues" with putting toll money toward a single fire station. Besides, the county manager says, budget cuts aren't the real villain.

"The error wasn't a budget issue; it was a dispatch issue," he says.

Indeed, Fire Chief Hermino Lorenzo soon appears and promises a full investigation into why Key Biscayne firefighters -- who were much closer to the accident scene than South Miami medics -- weren't called. 

In the end, there were no answers. The commissioners promised to keep studying the problems. Gimenez pledged to find money for Station 15 to reopen full-time. Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz promised a push to unify the region's fire dispatchers. And the local fire union promised an in-depth study about the fire department's organizational problems.

Sherwood doubts it will change much on the Rickenbacker.

"I see Metrobuses flying past at 70, 75 miles per hour every morning out there," he says. "When are we going to start enforcing the law?"

Bertonatti, meanwhile, never came up at the meeting. The 28-year-old native of Venezuela bonded out of jail Wednesday with a $100,000 pay-out

He faces charges of DUI manslaughter, vehicular homicide, driving without a license, leaving the scene of a fatality, and resisting arrest.

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