Ruth Morris was struck so hard on the bike path in Davenport, her shoes and earrings flew off.
The 79-year-old died Saturday — about an hour after a bicyclist hit her as she walked onto the Mississippi River Trail near the Iowa-American Water Co.
Morris was walking with her son, which was a daily ritual for the pair. They normally walked on the Duck Creek Parkway, which is closer to her Davenport home.
On Saturday, they decided to take a different route. Morris' son, Michael Blanchard, parked in the lot at Lindsay Park Yacht Club.
"I saw the bikes coming, and I stepped onto the other side of the bike path to give them room to go by," he said Tuesday. "They were coming really fast, so I got out of their way."
It is not known whether Morris saw the bikes bearing down, too.
"The woman came first, and she wiped out, basically," Blanchard said. "She was conscious the whole time, but she wasn't getting up. The guy then flipped over her, and he hit my mom, head-on."
He hurried to his mother's side and called 911. An ambulance responded, but police were not dispatched. Blanchard said he doesn't know the identity of the cyclists, but he thinks the woman was injured, possibly seriously. His mom suffered multiple skull fractures, among other injuries.
The first two days after the crash were torture for Blanchard. He kept reliving the scene; his beloved mother dying on the ground.
"She was gasping for air as she filled with blood," he said. "The 911 dispatcher told me to calm down, so I could put her on her side, so she wouldn't drown, basically."
Emergency room staff said Morris would have to be taken to Iowa City to have her skull opened to relieve pressure from her injuries. When Blanchard was told it was highly unlikely she would survive the trip, he declined the transfer.
"No more than a half hour at the hospital, her heart gave out," he said. "She'd lost too much blood. The injuries weren't survivable. The doctor comforted me by saying it was 100 percent the right call. If it was his mom, he would have done the same thing."
But the grief is overwhelming. Morris was a healthy, active 79-year-old who walked at least twice a day, including an hour each evening with her son.
"When it first happened and into the next day, I was praying this was not real," he said. "She took no medications, except for an eye drop, at 79 years old. I had to keep up with her, and I'm a fast walker."
For several reasons, the crash is surreal: It happened so fast, and she was gone so quick. But also: "It was going to be a cheerful day," he said.
The cheer is gone.
"I bought Mom and I cellphones, and our numbers were just one number apart," Blanchard said. "That was the absolute most important, most-used number. And now it doesn't go anywhere."
As he tries to accept what has happened, his brother and sister-in-law, Tim and Lynne Blanchard, want to make sure it never happens again.
"It's a tough one, because she did walk out (onto the edge of the path)," Lynne Blanchard said. "But you'd think they would slow down when pedestrians are around. We contacted the Davenport Police Department, asking if there are any obstructions to prevent bikes from seeing her or vice-versa.
"I don't know that it's a criminal thing, but the trauma of it ... I just don't want this to happen to anyone else."
Davenport police said Tuesday there will be no investigation, and the Parks Department will be asked to assess whether a warning sign is needed in the area.
The Blanchard brothers returned to the scene Tuesday. From the spot just off the bike path where their mother's blood stains remain, they estimated the bicycles had 70 yards of straight-away to notice the pair approaching.
"I'm 98 percent sure she saw them and froze," Michael Blanchard said. "She was barely on the bike path.
"It's not as if we're without fault. I truly didn't think anyone was to blame until we came back to the scene, and I saw how much time they had to be aware of us and to slow down.
"We went for a walk. You're not supposed to die."
In the spot where it happened, the floodwall for the water company runs parallel to the bike path on the north side. A single sign on the east end of the wall advises cyclists to slow down. No such warning exists on the upstream end of the wall, nor anywhere adjacent to the path.
"Signs are nice, but so is common sense," Tim Blanchard said. "I mean, you've got to be in control of your vehicle. Obviously, they were not in control of their vehicles in an area that is to be shared with walkers."
Michael Blanchard agreed.
"The people who hit her were going way too fast in order to be out of control when they got to us," he said. "I don't think it would honor my mom to make something bad out of this. On the other hand, if you're going so fast you can kill the person in front of you, you're going too fast.
"I really, truly just thought it was a total accident; a fluke. I took my brother down there and found her earring. I had picked up her shoes, because she was knocked out of them. Her earrings flew off, too. I'm now convinced this shouldn't have happened.
"We walked together every single day, and we talked on the phone every morning and again in the afternoon. We were each other's everything. I don't know how I'm going to ... my life is so empty without her."