An accident shortly after 2 a.m. on July 1 in which a motorist struck and killed a bicyclist minutes after the two left the same gay bar has shocked and saddened many in Rehoboth’s LGBT community.
Brian C. Meegan, 38, who was employed as a bartender at L Bar, a popular gay bar on Rehoboth Avenue just outside the Rehoboth town limits, allegedly slammed into the rear of a bicycle ridden by PNC Bank loan officer Russell “Rusty” Henman, 44, while driving his 2003 Jeep Wrangler, according to a statement released by Delaware State Police.
“The death of Rusty Henman was a tragic accident made even more so by the fact that Brian Meegan, the driver, is also part of our community,” said Steve Elkins, executive director of CAMP Rehoboth Community Center, an LGBT facility located about a mile from the scene of the accident.
The shock among Henman’s friends over his sudden death was heightened by information released by State Police that Meegan allegedly was driving while intoxicated and failed to stop his vehicle after hitting Henman’s bike. The police statement says his vehicle dragged the bike for several hundred feet before Meegan pulled into a parking lot and removed the bike from under the Jeep.
Police said they arrested Meegan a short time after he pulled into a CVS Pharmacy parking lot. News media photos show him being held in handcuffs by police at the site of the parking lot.
“The front of Meegan’s Jeep struck the rear of Henman’s bike causing him to be ejected onto the hood of the Jeep,” the police statement says. “Henman was carried approximately 400 feet until the Jeep struck a curb and stopped, throwing Henman onto the roadway. He was pronounced dead at the scene,” the statement says.
State Police charged Meegan with one count each of first-degree vehicular homicide, leaving the scene of a collision resulting in death, driving under the influence of alcohol, failure to report an accident resulting in injury or death, no proof of motor vehicle insurance and inattentive driving.
John Meng, co-owner of L Bar, disputes the police claim that Meegan was intoxicated, saying other employees who observed him during his work shift on the night of the accident say he wasn’t drinking.
“Brian was not drunk,” Meng told the Blade on Monday. “We have video of him at work. I don’t understand what the State Police said. He was not drinking while on his shift.”
Meng said Meegan no longer works for L Bar. “We don’t know where he is,” he said.
The Cape Gazette, a Delaware newspaper, quoted court documents filed by police that stated, “It became obvious that Meegan was under the influence of alcohol. Meegan displayed slurred speech, glassy, blood shot eyes and his breath had a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage,” the newspaper quoted the court document as saying.
Police said Meegan refused a field sobriety test, prompting them to take him to nearby Beebe Medical Center in Lewes, Del., where his blood alcohol level was tested. Police did not immediately release the results of the blood test, saying the test conducted by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner “could take some time.”
Meegan was arraigned in a Sussex County court and initially held in the Sussex County Correctional Institution. The Cape Gazette reported he was released on July 3 on $27,000 bail.
The Cape Gazette reported court records show that Meegan had been charged six weeks earlier with driving under the influence of alcohol in nearly the same area where his Jeep struck Henman’s bike. The Cape Gazette reported that in the earlier incident Meegan was also charged with failure to have insurance identification in his possession and failure to have vehicle registration on his possession.
Rehoboth Beach gay activist Peter Schott, who knew Henman, said Henman lived in the rural town of Snow Hill, Md., but spent nearly every weekend in Rehoboth.
“He liked to sing,” said Schott, who noted that he often saw Henman at the Rehoboth gay bar and restaurant Rigby’s, which features a piano player who leads patrons in singing show tunes. Schott said Henman patronized other places that feature karaoke.
People who know Meegan said he recently moved to Rehoboth from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and began working as a bartender at L Bar.
Meegan posted a message on his Facebook page at 5:13 p.m. on June 30 saying, “Working [a] double today, ready for Super July Fourth Week.” People familiar with L Bar said he was referring to working a double shift at the establishment, which included the afternoon happy hour period and the evening shift. His evening shift on June 30 would have extended past midnight to July 1, the morning of the accident.
The accident that took Henman’s life took place where Rehoboth Avenue merges into Route 1 Coastal Highway. Many Rehoboth residents have noted that bicycle traffic has increased in recent years. Some have called for more clearly designated bike lanes, especially in the location where Rehoboth Avenue merges with Route 1.
Others have called for more public awareness of programs aimed at helping people with alcohol related problems. Elkins said Camp Rehoboth hosts a weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meeting on Thursdays in which 60 or more people participate.
“There are a number of AA meetings daily in the Rehoboth area,” he said.