PUBLIC SAFETY FACILITY — Investigators with the Santa Monica Police Department are asking for the public’s help in locating a vehicle involved in a felony hit-and-run accident that seriously injured a bike rider.

It was the 13th hit-and-run accident in Santa Monica so far this year, said SMPD Investigator Chris Dawson. There were 612 such accidents in 2008.

Police said the latest hit-and-run occurred on Jan. 17 at about 12:30 a.m. A 33-year-old bicyclist was riding southbound on 20th Street at Arizona avenue when he was struck by an unknown vehicle. After striking the cyclist, the driver ran over the bicycle and the rider’s body and then left the scene without rendering assistance or calling the police.

The victim was transported to a local hospital in critical condition. He suffered severe head trauma, multiple fractures to his torso and one of his legs was broken, Dawson said.

“A woman who lives on the south side of Arizona heard a thump and saw a body lying on the roadway next to a bicycle,” Dawson said. “She said she saw a vehicle driving away slowly but couldn’t make it out.”

There is no description of the vehicle available, however, investigators believe it may have front end scratches or dents and possibly a cracked windshield.

“If [the cyclist] succumbs to his injuries, the charge will be manslaughter, or possibly second degree murder,” if alcohol was involved, Dawson said.

The cyclist was riding at night without lights on his bike. He was not wearing a helmet and there was evidence that he was drinking a beer while riding, Dawson said.

“For bike riders, when you are riding at night you have to have a light on your bike, but more importantly you should be wearing a helmet,” Dawson said. “That could have possibly prevented the brain injury.”

Drivers involved in an accident should always remain at the scene, Dawson said, or risk turning what could be a minor traffic violation into a manslaughter charge of second-degree murder case.

Of the hit-and-run accidents that occur in Santa Monica, Dawson said the vast majority are minor. A hit-and-run can be as simple as bumping a car while leaving a parking space and failing to leave any contact information.

Last year there was one fatal hit-and-run accident involving a homeless man who was struck at the corner of Lincoln and Ocean Park boulevards. Officers are still searching for the vehicle involved, which was described as a black Nissan Sentra or Toyota Corolla.

Anyone with information on either hit-and-run is urged to contact Dawson at (310) 458-8954, or Sgt. Larry Horn at (310) 458-8950. The watch commander is also available 24 hours a day at (310) 458-8427.

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