29-year-old woman allegedly hits triathlete Salvatore Gomez during Smith Point Triathlon in Shirley, Suffolk

Long Island triathlete struck by car; driver with past DUI faces court on Sept. 22. Community rallies for victim's recovery.

In a heartbreaking incident on Sunday, Aug. 6, Ramona Jakeline Figueroa Lopez, 29, allegedly struck and seriously injured triathlete Salvatore Gomez, 43, during the Smith Point Triathlon in Shirley. The collision took place as Figueroa Lopez reportedly tried to exit a parking lot, entering the race route at high speed.

Salvatore Gomez, a seasoned athlete, father of two, and resident of Selden, was in the middle of the bike portion of the race when the tragedy occurred. Immediately after the crash, he was rushed to the hospital, where he’s currently grappling with severe injuries, including a traumatic brain injury.

His wife, Jill Gomez, voiced her anguish, “In addition to spinal fractures and broken bones, his mind isn’t working, and he doesn’t have much memory. And not that anybody deserves this, but he doesn’t deserve any part of this.”

Figueroa Lopez’s Controversial Past

Figueroa Lopez, currently facing charges of reckless driving, aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle, and failure to use a court-ordered interlock device, is no stranger to the law. ABC News confirmed her prior arrest for drunk driving in July 2021. Furthermore, the interlock device installed in her car following the incident was found to be non-operational at the time of the recent crash.

Michael Brown, the defense attorney for Figueroa Lopez, expressed doubts about the narrative presented by the prosecutors. “All I can tell you is that it was an accident, and she is very sorry for the injuries. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family,” Brown stated. He also mentioned his confidence that the charge related to the non-operational interlock device would likely be dismissed.

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A Community Seeks Answers

Friday’s court hearing saw a surge of Gomez’s supporters, many of whom were fellow racers. They came together in solidarity, seeking clarity about the incident. “Sal is a great teammate. He’s got two kids, one of whom he donated a kidney to. He’s a great family man,” remarked friend Bob Haughn.

The incident has also reignited concerns about biker safety. Julie Michels, a supporter, commented on the irony of Figueroa Lopez’s profession and her past, “This woman hits him, works at a bar, was convicted of DWI, and she’s walking free, and she’s going back to her job.” Another supporter, Amanda Ciolino, highlighted the broader implications, “I keep thinking it could’ve been any one of us that day, and that’s the scary thing.”

Upcoming Court Proceedings

As the investigation unfolds, Figueroa Lopez has been released on her own recognizance. She is scheduled to return to court on Sept. 22.

Meanwhile, New York authorities emphasize their zero-tolerance policy for drivers speeding or driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. As the legal proceedings continue, the community awaits justice, all while rallying behind the Gomez family during this challenging time.