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Cyclist injured in crash dies

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JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) -- An 18-year-old Massachusetts woman critically injured when a car slammed into a group of bicyclists in Woodruff County has died.

According to the website of Overland Summer Camps, which had organized the cross-country bike tour, Merritt Levitan of Milton, MA, "died as a result of injuries sustained" in Tuesday's crash near McCrory.

According to Arkansas State Police around 4:30 Tuesday afternoon, 21-year-old Teagan Ross Martin of Newport crashed into a group of 13 bicyclists also traveling north on Highway 17 near McCrory.

Martin has been questioned by Arkansas State Police investigators, who say they'll turn over their investigation to the Woodruff County Prosecutor's Office for consideration of any charges being filed against Martin.

Prosecutor John Bell said Wednesday that authorities are investigating why the driver crashed into the group.

Bell, however, says there was no evidence that the driver had been drinking alcohol.

Two people were airlifted to Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock. One person was airlifted to a Memphis hospital, and four others were taken to a local hospital by ambulance. Of the four taken to local hospitals, two have been treated and released.  Two remain hospitalized in stable condition.

ASP says the cyclists were on a cross-country trip that had originated in Charleston, South Carolina.  The group's destination was Santa Monica, California.

The cross-country trip was organized by Overland Summer Camps of Williamstown, Massachusetts, which provides summer programs for kids age 10 to 19.

Tom Costley, director of Overland Summer Camps, traveled from Massachusetts to Memphis early Wednesday morning, where he first met with the family of the cyclist whose condition is still critical.

Costley says his group has offered the six-week, almost $6,000 cross-country bike trip called the American Challenge every summer since 1990, and they have never once had a tragic incident like the one Tuesday.

"We need the community to extend their thoughts and prayers to all of the injured and then their families as well," he told Region 8 News during an exclusive interview.

Costley made his way to Newport later Wednesday, where a local couple has opened their home to eight of the cyclists.

"The EMTs were there right away. They were incredibly effective," he said. "Law enforcement was professional and focused. Local physicians have been caring, and the neighbors have reached out to us and shown us their concern and their care. It's just wonderful."

"That's the positive takeaway for us is you come to a town like Newport, and you get that kind of response at every level," Costley added.

The bicyclists will stay in Newport until they decide whether to continue their bike trip to California or go back home. Costley is unsure when that decision will be made, but wants to assure everyone that the teenaged bikers' parents will be involved.

"You should be proud of the community you've built here," Costley said. "It was wonderful for us to have this support and this warmth and this welcome. It's just fantastic."

ASP is still investigating the incident and says more information should be released later.

Region 8 News will keep tracking this story and provide the latest information when it becomes available. 

Copyright 2013 KAIT. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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