CULLMAN, Ala. (WIAT) — Employees of the Bojangles in Cullman are raising money for a loyal customer who was killed on Monday when her bicycle was struck by a vehicle. Benita Gunter, 67, was riding along St. Joseph Drive NW around 6 p.m. when the accident happened. She died on the way to UAB Medical Center.
Cullman Police tell WIAT 42 that Gunter was not wearing enough reflective clothing to be visible to motorists at night. While Gunter’s bike had the reflectors that came standard on it, law requires a bicycle also have a red light on the rear of the bike and a headlight in the front. Gunter did not.
As for the driver who hit Gunter, Assistant Chief Craig Green explained, “From everything that we know from witnesses that we’ve talked to and the driver himself he didn’t do anything wrong. His headlights worked properly, he wasn’t speeding, he wasn’t following too closely. It’s just a road that’s not lit and is not really friendly for bicycle traffic after dark.” Green called the incident a tragedy and said that he feels for both the driver and the victim.
“She just always had a smile on her face, no matter what she went through,” said Haley Buckelew, a manager for Bojangles restaurant in Cullman. “She was always trying to help somebody. She was always willing to give her last dollar to somebody if they needed it.”
Buckelew said Gunter came to Bojangles practically every day. For a time, she worked across the street at an Arby’s. Gunter didn’t talk much about her problems, but Buckelew said that most people were aware that she was homeless or spent time shifting between the homes of friends and shelters. The bike was her only means of transportation.
However, Buckelew described Gunter as one of the most cheerful people she knew. “She would go around to all of the customers to talk to them, and she would always have that big old smile on her face,” she said.
Buckelew and other employees heard about what had happened to Gunter shortly after she passed away. They didn’t know of any family that she had in the area, so they decided to raise money for her funeral expenses. Buckelew said they felt as though they had become a sort of family to Gunter. “Everyone had been back and forth wanting to raise money and do a lot of things for her, because she deserves it,” she explained. “We wanted to make sure she got that proper burial.”
They began raising money at 7 a.m. on Thursday. By 5 p.m., they had already raised $400.
The employees at Bojangles have now been in touch with some of Gunter’s family members, who came in to town today to speak with law enforcement. WIAT learned that there will be a visitation for Gunter on Friday at 6 p.m. in Cullman.
Copyright 2015 WIAT 42 News