Maryland’s First Female Episcopal Bishop Heather Cook Named As Driver In Fatal ‘Hit-And-Run’ Bike Crash

JohnThomas Didymus - Author

Dec. 29 2014, Updated 8:16 a.m. ET

Maryland’s newly ordained first female Episcopal Bishop has been named as the driver in a fatal crash with a cyclist. The accident is being described in some media reports as a “hit-and-run.”

The 58-year-old Bishop Heather E. Cook, who was ordained in September as Bishop Suffragan, the second highest rank in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, was reportedly driving a Subaru station wagon when she ran over and killed 41-year-old Thomas Palermo. The victim was riding a bicycle on Roland Avenue in Baltimore at about 2:37 p.m., Saturday, two days after Christmas, when Cook hit and killed him.

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Police and witnesses said Bishop Cook fled the scene in her car immediately after the crash, leaving the victim who was still alive, but seriously injured, without care. However, she returned to the scene of the crash about 20 minutes later.

In a pastoral letter to church officials, the Bishop of Maryland, Right Reverend Eugene Taylor Sutton, expressed “distress to announce that Bishop Heather E. Cook was involved in a traffic accident Saturday afternoon.”

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“I am distressed to announce that Bishop Heather E. Cook was involved in a traffic accident Saturday afternoon, Dec. 27 that resulted in the death of a bicyclist, Thomas Palermo, 41. Bishop Cook did not sustain any injuries.

Cook's Subaru
Damage To Cook’s Subaru

“Together with the Diocese of Maryland, I express my deep sorrow over the death of the cyclist and offer my condolences to the victim’s family. Please pray for Mr. Palermo, his family and Bishop Cook during this most difficult time.

“Several news organizations have reported this as a ‘hit and run.’ Bishop Cook did leave the scene initially, but returned after about 20 minutes to take responsibility for her actions.”

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The victim, Palermo, well-known in the area as a cycling enthusiast and custom bike maker, was rushed to the Sinai Hospital where he died of his injuries. Another cyclist found him dying in the street on the 5700 block of Roland Avenue and called 911. According to a witness who spoke with the Baltimore Brew, Palermo was alive for several minutes after the accident.

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“He was alive after it happened. She might have been able to help or call for help if she’d stayed on the scene.”

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