Driver arrested in cyclist hit-and-run

Jul. 09, 2013 @ 06:40 PM

Police charged a 27-year-old driver Tuesday in the death of a Durham bicyclist who died after a hit-and-run Monday night.

Maceo Christopher Kemp Jr. of Manson, N.C., turned himself in to police Tuesday afternoon. He is charged with felony hit-and-run and driving while his license was revoked.

Kemp was in the Durham County Jail Tuesday evening under a $50,000 secured bond.

He is accused in the death of Seth Vidal.

Vidal, 36, was biking north on Hillandale Road at 8:57 p.m. Monday when a driver hit him from behind and didn’t stop, police said. He was transported to Duke University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Witnesses reported seeing a dark-colored (possible burgundy), late-1990s-to-2000 model sedan brake suddenly and swerve before continuing north on Hillandale Road.

Friends remembered Vidal on Tuesday as a highly intelligent software engineer who loved to debate.

“Seth was a constant contrarian, and we would spend a lot of time arguing about things,” his friend, Beck Tench, said. “We had debates about life and death, about Durham and politics.”

Vidal, who lived on Woodrow Street in West Durham not far from where the accident happened, was a senior software engineer at Red Hat, a Raleigh-based computer software company. Before that, he worked at Duke University in the Office of Information Technology and Duke University Physics.

Tench said she met Vidal at Duke about 10 years ago.

“We had a lot of interests in common, from biking to general lifestyle,” she said. “Seth had a real love for Durham.”

Tench said Vidal had an insatiable curiosity about everything. “He had a curiosity to understand why we’re here, about what will happen far into the future, about what will happen to the earth and to humans,” she said.

Vidal was also a “great tinkerer,” she said, and could fix bicycles and explain everything about them in great detail. He had a bike shop at his home.

Tench said she’s “100 percent in shock” from Vidal’s death.

“I can’t imagine the world without him,” she said. “It’s a tremendous loss. I expected to know Seth for the rest of my life.”

Meanwhile, online reactions to Vidal’s death poured in.

“This horrific event should affect all of us, whether we knew Seth well or not,” one person wrote. “First is grief for his wife and family. Second is restricting the out-of-control speeding currently occurring on Hillandale and yes, Club [Boulevard] as well. Does it take such a tragedy to wake us up? Perhaps, but we must remedy this driving [problem] now and in the future.”

Another writer called Vidal a “leading bike and [pedestrian] advocate for Durham. This angers and saddens me deeply. I’m sure Seth was taking all the right precautions. He was idealistic and headstrong, and he knew his rights on the road. Now his young life was snuffed out by a cowardly hit-and-run killer … disgusting.”

“He was a dear man,” wrote another. “My heart aches.”