BOULDER, Colo. — Almost 20 weeks after 17-year-old Magnus White was hit and killed while bicycling in Boulder County, the investigation into the crash has concluded and the driver is now facing charges.
An arrest warrant was issued on Tuesday afternoon for Yeva Smilianska, 23, of Westminster for a charge of vehicular homicide - reckless, which is a Class 4 felony. She was arrested Tuesday evening by officers with the Longmont Police Department.
She is being held at the Boulder County Jail. During a hearing on advisement Wednesday afternoon, her defense said she has no criminal history in the United States or in her native country of Ukraine. She is a refugee who fled to escape the war and has been living in Colorado since with her spouse, her defense said. She had been employed by a business for eight months.
After listing out the factors he was taking into account, Judge Zachary Malkinson set a personal recognizance bond at $100,000. The terms of the bond included pre-trial supervision, no driving, and surrendering her passport. Personal recognizance bonds, or PR bonds, allow a suspected offender to get out of jail without having to pay any money with just a promise to return to court when ordered.
“I will note the absolute tragic nature of the allegations of what took place here and I'm aware what has happened (has made an impact) not just across this community but more broadly," Malkinson said.
Magnus White, who was on the verge of becoming a world-class cyclist, was struck and killed by a driver near Highway 119 and N. 63rd Street in his hometown of Boulder on the afternoon of July 29. At the time of the crash, he was proudly wearing his Team USA jersey and training for the Junior Mountain Bike World Championships in Scotland, his family said.
After the arrest was announced on Wednesday, family of Magnus White said in a statement that the driver "willfully and consciously chose to get behind the wheel of her car, engaging in reckless driving behavior that resulted in the fatal collision into our son Magnus who was struck from behind and ejected from his bicycle."
Their statement continued: "As parents, we teach our children about consequences and accountability. We believe in consequences and accountability when Magnus was alive and we held him to that. Magnus believed in this as well. Yeva Smilianska must be held accountable for her willful and conscious actions when she chose to get behind the wheel of her car that day. It is essential Yeva Smilianska be given the maximum penalty for her crime, not only for her willful actions, but also for the profound pain and suffering endured by Magnus's mother, father, brother, family, friends, teammates and entire community — a dark shadow of grief that will hang over them for the remainder of their lives."
The family said they will struggle this season, as Christmas was the teen's favorite holiday.
"Magnus’s death could have been prevented," their statement concluded. "It underscores the responsibility of every driver to safely operate their vehicle. Every time each of us gets into our car, every time we get on our bikes, every time we walk on a sidewalk, every time we walk in a parking lot, we all have an inherent trust that another driver will not strike and kill us. Yeva Smilianska shattered this trust."
For many community members, mourning morphed into frustration as days turned to weeks with no arrests in the case.
Emails started pouring into Denver7's The Follow Up inbox asking for updates:
"Why the mystery about the driver of the vehicle that killed Magnus White? Are they protecting an influential member of society?"
"Please do not let this story disappear. As a bike rider, I desperately want to know what tragic circumstances lurk for me out there so that I can take appropriate measures to protect myself."
"It appears to the cycling community that the intention is to string this out so that when charges aren't filed and no citations are issued, people will have forgotten about it. I can assure you nobody is forgetting this crime."
"Sad and angry."
When Denver7 reached out to Colorado State Patrol (CSP) and the 20th Judicial District Attorney's Office through the rest of the summer and into the fall, both groups said the investigation was ongoing. Shannon Carbone, public information officer with the DA's Office, explained that given the "mechanical inspection and crash reconstruction analysis that has to be completed, these crash investigations by law enforcement tend to take a while – depending on the circumstances of the crash."
Governor Polis talks road safety after USA Cycling teen's death in Boulder
According to a crash report completed on Aug. 5, Smilianska, who was initially only identified as a 23-year-old woman from Westminster, was driving a silver 2004 Toyota Matrix at the time. Magnus White was bicycling southbound on Highway 119 south of N. 63rd Street at the same time as Smilianska was going in the same direction in the right lane. She was going the speed limit, the crash report reads. She drifted out of her lane and into the paved right shoulder. She later reported this "was due to steering difficulty," according to the crash report, though no issues were found in the subsequent investigation. According to an arrest affidavit released on Wednesday, Smilianska said she lost control of her car.
A driver who was behind Smilianska's vehicle reported seeing the driver swerve to the right shoulder and back into the correct lane multiple times, according to the affidavit.
A bicyclist who was riding behind Magnus White reported "seeing the vehicle make an abrupt right turn, traveling in what (redacted) described as a 'beeline' straight towards White," the affidavit reads. Multiple other witnesses reported the same. The bicyclist reported that the driver did not appear to have swerved to avoid anything and it did not appear like the driver lost control. Instead, the person described "seeing the vehicle make a hard right turn" and collide with the back of Magnus White's bicycle and he was ejected.
Smilianska continued off the right side of the road, down a grass embankment and finally came to a rest after colliding with a fence, according to a crash report.
According to that report, the roadway in the area was straight, level, dry and in full daylight. The weather was clear. No cameras captured the crash.
Smilianska reportedly asked witnesses who stopped if she could leave, prior to police arriving, according to the affidavit. Some witnesses said it appeared like she did not know she had hit somebody. A witness said, "right when I was told I was free to go, (Smilianska) came over to ask me what happened. So I gave her, like, a brief explanation, um, and she said she passed out at the wheel," according to the affidavit.
Driver who hit Magnus White fell asleep at the wheel, investigators say
Smilianska later told investigators she tried to steer her back on the road, but "the next thing she remembered, she was off the side of the highway and felt 'fuzzy,'" according to the affidavit. She reported that she thought the people who were stopped were checking on her. She did not recall seeing Magnus White on his bike.
The driver's car had to be towed because of "disabling damage," the crash report reads. It adds that the driver made no "no avoidance maneuver." There were no braking or skid marks, according to the affidavit. The August crash report also details that according to the first responder's opinion, there was no apparent human contributing factor, meaning the driver did not appear to be sleepy, on her phone, distracted or suffering from a medical episode. There was no evidence of drug or alcohol use.
The crash report also reads that Magnus White did not contribute to the crash in any way, as he was riding straight on the paved shoulder, the crash report reads.
An autopsy report found that his cause of death was blunt force head trauma and the manner of death was an accident, according to an affidavit.
In the subsequent investigation, an inspection showed no issues with the vehicle Smilianska was driving and noted that when traveling over 50 mph, the vehicle pulled slightly to the right if there was no "steering input," according to the affidavit. Investigators also determined that she was likely asleep for less than three hours the night before the crash, and Smilianska said she hadn't been sleeping well since she fled Ukraine.
"Based on the totality of circumstances, it appears most likely that Smilianska was asleep at the time of the crash," the affidavit concludes.
Community mourns loss of USA Cycling athlete, 17, from Boulder
Magnus began cycling through Boulder Junior Cycling and quickly rose in the ranks of off-road cycling competitions, according to USA Cycling. He won the 2021 Junior 17-18 Cyclocross National Championships and competed with the USA Cycling National Team for a season of European Cyclocross racing. He ended the year at the 2022 UCI Cyclocross World Championship in Arkansas, the organization said. He represented his community and country at another Cyclocross World Championships in January 2023, USA Cycling said.
His parents said Magnus found his passion early in life and dedicated himself to biking, never taking a shortcut and completing all the work to "achieve every audacious goal he set for himself," they said.
He was about to start his senior year in high school.
Magnus was one of the many athletes coached by Michael Robson, senior coach at Boulder Junior Cycling. He called the teen "a massive bowl of potential."
"It was almost a masterclass in how to do it — a masterclass in how to be an incredible young human being," Robson said.
The White Line said it "champions the relentless spirit and love for life of Magnus White," adding that "while the world recognized him as a rising cycling talent, to us he remains the ever-smiling Magnus, who cherished family, friends, and fun above all." It aims to preserve and honor Magnus, while inspiring cyclists around the world, and raising awareness and creating change for bicycle safety on the roads.
Honoring Magnus White: Boulder bicyclist's family creates nonprofit, film series
The nonprofit will release a series of films titled "Lives Worth Remembering" to highlight the lives of bicyclists killed on the roads, and their impact on the communities. A 10-minute trailer for the first film, which provides glimpses of Magnus' life as well as his family's grief, was released on Dec. 4.
You can watch it here.
In October, safety improvements for Colorado Highway 119 were announced, thanks to a $25 million RAISE grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. This project will begin in 2024. An in-person open house will be held on Wednesday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Lefthand Grange, located at 195 2nd Avenue in Niwot, to discuss the project. In addition, videos and community comment forms are available here.