Family Reacts to Charges Announced in Cyclist’s Death

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Family and friends of a Schuylkill County man killed last year in a crash in New Mexico, spoke out Sunday and had a message for the man now facing charges in the case.

John Anczarski's family and friends said the charges have been a long time coming, but that they will not bring Johnny back.

It has been more than 18 months since John Robert Anczarski, 19, of Ringtown was killed while on a cross-country bicycle ride to raise money for breast cancer.

Family members said prosecutors in New Mexico notified them of charges announced Saturday against the driver who hit John.

"I really didn`t feel any different than the moment that I knew Johnny wasn`t coming back. It doesn`t get easier every day. You would hope it would, but it doesn`t," said his father, John J. Anczarski.

John and several friends left Schuylkill County in May 2010. Their "Pink Pedal" bike ride would take them all the way to California, but a few days from their goal, while traveling through the Laguna Pueblo, Native American land in rural New Mexico, John was struck by a vehicle that crossed the center line.

Pueblo authorities said they will charge Gilbert Waconda, a member of the pueblo, with reckless driving and vehicular homicide, but said under federal and tribal laws, Waconda could face a sentence of only up to two years.

"It doesn`t fit the crime, but what are they going to do. That`s the maximum that they can get," added Anczarski's father.

Steven Wasilewski spent a few days on the trip with John and hopes the charges will bring his loved ones some closure.

"I`m really just glad there`s something being done about it. Even though it might only be a short sentence, I hope it serves him justice and I hope he thinks about how he`s impacted and affected the lives of all John`s friends and family," said friend Steven Wasilewski of Ringtown.

Those who knew John said he touched the lives of many.

"My hope is that as time goes on, that we will continue to remember the good things that he did, the person that he was and that we will look to mirror that in our own lives as we go forward as best we can," said Pastor Jay Serafin of St. John's Lutheran Church.

John Anczarski's father said he hopes Gilbert Waconda will learn from the crash.

"You have to do good for the rest of your life. You have to take Johnny`s place," he said.

Pueblo authorities said Waconda could be arraigned in the coming days.

After the crash, the Anczarski family put up several billboards in John's memory in New Mexico. A third one is expected to go up at the end of the month.

The family also started the John Anczarski Scholarship Fund, last year giving out $6,000 to students in the Schylkill County area.