A 25-year-old Bronx public school teacher who had been bicycling across country to raise money and awareness about affordable housing was fatally struck by a driver in Oklahoma. The driver told authorities she was distracted by looking at her phone.
Patrick Wanninkhof and Bridget Anderson, 22, were "struck from behind by a 4-door Chevy sedan" on State Highway 152 in Washita County around 8 a.m. on Thursday, July 30. Anderson was injured while Wannikof died at the scene. The driver, Sarah Morris, 34, was not hurt and it's unclear if she will be charged. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol's Public Information Office has not returned our call.
Wanninkhof and Anderson were riding with Bike and Build, which organizes bicycle rides to benefit affordable housing, and he had planned to reach the final stop in California on August 28. On his biography for Bike and Build, Wanninkof wrote:
As a teacher in the Bronx, I know that biking across America pales in comparison to the struggles my students must overcome on a daily basis.
I was thrust into the education with little background on the systemic inequities which limit my students. The middle-class ideal of meritocracy instilled me with the misguided belief that all my students needed to do was work harder and success would follow. This mindset was soon challenged when a student told me that she and her mom had been moving between relatives houses every week after they couldn't pay rent. How on earth could I expect her to give her all to Newton's Laws when she wasn't sure where she'd be sleeping that evening?
To fix systemic inequities which burden our nation, we need a systemic approach to fighting poverty. Education reform will be fruitless if we cannot guarantee that every child can return to a safe home in the evening. The quest for Affordable Housing for each American runs parallel to my dedication for bringing each student an excellent education. Only by simultaneously addressing both these issues can we guarantee the prosperity of each person in our nation.
Wanninkof had just worked with Habitat for Humanity in Tulsa before being killed.
His sister Suzette Wanninkhof, who completed Bike and Build last year, told the Daily News, “He believed in his students so much, he pushed them to go further. He always wanted to be an engineer. That’s all he wanted and then he decided he wanted to teach and he was amazing at it." His LinkedIn description reads, "STEM Educator with a passion for Social Justice."
His father, Rik Wanninkhof, told NewsOK, "[H]e wanted to do something that affected people’s day-to-day lives. So, he applied for Teach for America. We were very proud that he did that." Wanninkhof was also a musician, and his father said "his son was a talented bass player and beat boxer, even giving a beat box performance at an open mic night while on the road to Oklahoma."