WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — An eastern Massachusetts woman has died as the result of injuries sustained in Arkansas during bicycle tour organized by Williamstown's Overland Summers.
On Friday, a message on Overland's website confirmed that Merritt Levitan of Milton had died. The company had previously announced it was suspending the tour in which Levitan was participating and making arrangements for the return of the participants.
"Yesterday morning we received confirmation that Merritt Levitan of Milton, Massachusetts, died as a result of injuries sustained in a terrible incident that occurred outside of McCrory, Arkansas, while participating in an Overland bicycle touring program," a note credited to Overland founder and director Tom Costley reads. "Liz and I, and the entire Overland community, are heartsick by this tragic loss. We extend our deepest condolences to Merritt’s family, friends and loved ones."
According to a report on the Associated Press, Levitan was 18.
On Thursday, the company announced its decision to call off the remainder of the American Challenge Two, which was to take a group of 13 bicyclists (including two leaders) from Charletson, S.C., to Los Angeles in six weeks.
On Tuesday, a vehicle hit some of the riders in Woodruff County, Ark., sending seven riders to the hospital.
When the decision was announced Thursday to cancel the remainder of the trip, four were still hospitalized, including one in critical condition.
"Tom and Liz [Costley] spent the evening with the remaining eight group members in Arkansas," read a separate blog entry on the Overland site on Thursday. "Counselors were also present. At this point, we continue to express our deepest concern for the injured individuals and their families and our gratitude for the incredible outpouring of support among the professionals, emergency personnel, law enforcement officers and communities of Arkansas and Tennessee."
Overland is accredited by the American Camp Association and licensed by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. It overs hiking, biking, language and travel experiences worldwide.
From the Associated Press report:
"Prosecutors are considering filing charges against the 21-year-old driver who struck the cyclists, but prosecutor John Bell said no charges had been filed as of Thursday.
"Bell has said there wasn't any evidence of alcohol in the driver's bloodstream, but he said authorities were looking into whether anything else, such as a cellphone, was involved in the crash."
Levitan was a recent graduate of Milton Academy and planned to attend Colgate University in the fall.
"The best way to describe her is that she is the person everyone went to with any kind of problem," Abby Lebovitz, 17, a teammate of Levitans on the Milton girls tennis team, told the Boston Globe. "She was always there for anyone. It didn’t matter if she wasn’t your best friend; she was just there."