The fall that killed a beloved doctor in Austin, Minn., took place on a bridge that was part of a mountain biking trail he and others had helped build. Richard "Dick" Schindler, 72, slipped off the bridge Saturday morning while crossing it on his mountain bike and landed head first on the ground below, breaking his neck and killing him instantly, according to Mower County Coroner David Strobel. He was wearing a helmet.
The bridge spans a creek and is just a "few feet" off the ground, according to the coroner.
Strobel said the angle of the fall was likely more significant than the force of the fall. Strobel said he once had an elderly patient who suffered a similar spinal break after falling face-first out of a wheelchair.
Strobel said the manner of death was accidental. He investigated the possibility that a medical event of some kind caused the bike crash or even killed Schindler before the crash, but neither hypothesis was supported by the evidence.
Schindler, a veteran bicyclist who was behind the launch of the Austin mountain biking team this year, was biking to the team's trails near Riverland Community College on Saturday to work on expanding and improving the trail network with others, according to team coach Spencer Salmon. It was typical of Schindler, who was known as a tireless volunteer, willing donor and broad supporter of his Southeast Minnesota community. "He was our fearless leader," said a heartbroken Salmon.
A visitation was scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 22, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Worlein Funeral Home in Austin. The funeral will be held Thursday, Oct. 23, at 11 a.m. at St. Augustine Catholic Church, Austin, Minn.