Family and friends are preparing to memorialize a cyclist hit and killed on Wall Triana Highway this week. They shared Jose Zayas would want his death to raise awareness about distracted driving or other dangerous behavior.
The investigation is now a criminal one, as police wait for toxicology tests on the driver who hit him.
Troy Spier said Jose Zayas was like a brother to him. They were former coworkers, close friends and cycled on the Alabama Wheelman racing team together. He said when Zayas didn't immediately answer his text message Tuesday night, he knew something was wrong.
"Never a text or a voicemail until that one that wasn't read instantly and responded. It was just, 'Are you okay?'" he said.
Huntsville police said the wreck happened when the driver tried to pass a slow driver directly behind Zayas. He then moved into the lane where Zayas was riding, hitting and killing him.
Zayas's sister, Delineliz, says their family and friends in Alabama and back in Puerto Rico are struggling to come to terms with his death.
"It is hard to believe. Even though you are there and you know it is your family member, it is hard to believe," Delineliz Zayas said.
Spiers shared he misses his close friend, someone he's shared countless hours with throughout the years.
"I can honestly say and this may sound like a staggering number, I've ridden the course with Zayas hundreds of times. He always had a huge smile on his face and that spread to the rest of the room, like a light switch turning on," Spiers said.
Friends and family hope people will think twice the next time they get behind the wheel.
"We're entitled to the road just like you and we're not perfect either, but we have no protection around us. The least you can do is give us a little space. We're not going away," he said.
"Sharing the road, don't drink and drive, don't text while driving. Let's save lives and avoid other families going through the pain we are going through," his sister added.
Alabama law says drivers must allow cyclists at least three feet of clearance. If you want to pass a cyclist, you must do so safely.