EDINBURG — Two men were arrested after police say they struck and killed an avid cyclist and popular University of Texas-Pan American employee, then attempted to dump the man’s body in a drainage ditch Thursday morning.
The incident is the third fatality of a bicyclist in less than a month. A pickup truck struck a bicyclist north of Edinburg on March 29, and another cyclist died after she was hit by a car in McAllen on March 27.
Friends of Thursday’s victim — Eduardo Arguelles, 38 — said the incident underscores the ongoing challenge bicyclists face in sharing area roads
“People tell me that here in the Valley there is no respect for cyclists,” said Irma Hermida, who worked with Arguelles in the UTPA Information Technology division.
Arguelles got up early to put in some extra training with his cycling partner before his regular morning ride with the Facebook group “5 AM Wake-up Ride,” Hermida said.
The two cyclists were riding southbound near the intersection of Interstate 69C/Expressway 281 and Trenton Road about 4:15 a.m. when Arguelles was struck by a white Ford F-150 truck also traveling southbound, said Lt. Oscar Treviño, Edinburg police spokesman. The force of the impact caused Arguelles’ body to land in the bed of the truck and the suspects fled the scene, Treviño said.
Arguelles’ training partner found the man’s bike, called 911 and alerted the Facebook group, whose members began frantically calling hospitals and police, said friend and fellow cyclist Myssie Cardenas-Barajas.
Police responded to the scene at 4:30 a.m. and used search dogs to search for Arguelles but did not find him, Treviño said.
Police said they found the two male suspects about two hours later near the intersection of Tower and Iowa Roads trying to dispose of Arguelles’ body in a drainage ditch.
Treviño said that it is unknown whether the driver of the pickup had been drinking, but said that authorities are investigating. Both of the adult males are in custody, pending arraignment Friday.
Arguelles’ friends struggled to describe their emotions upon hearing what the two suspects were allegedly trying to do with the man’s body.
“Pissed,” Hermida said through tears.
“That’s an understatement. Disgust,” said fellow co-worker Linda Mares after pausing for a moment. “He was just down the road from a hospital. They didn’t have to disrespect him like that.”
Cardenas-Barajas called the two men who allegedly struck Arguellas cowards.
“It really made me question: As humans, what have we become?” Cardenas-Barajas said. “To be so selfish, so self-centered to think of disposing of a life so easily. It’s heart-breaking.”
Arguelles worked as a computer user services specialist for the university and was close to graduating in May with a general studies degree and minors in English, philosophy and communication, UTPA President Robert Nelsen said.
Arguelles was also instrumental in bringing amenities for cyclists to the UTPA campus, including the bike repair stations installed last year, Nelsen said.
“His wife said to me today that Eddie told her ‘If I die riding, I died happy,’” Nelsen said, adding that Arguelles’ uncle also died when he was struck by a vehicle while riding a bicycle.
Arguelles leaves behind a wife and two children. Nelsen said they will accept a bachelor’s degree on Arguelles’ behalf during the graduation ceremony May 10.
Cardenas-Barajas, who rode with the cyclist group Thursday morning, said Arguelles had an infectious sense of humor.
“He made everything more comfortable (during group bicycle rides). He was joking around with us, making funny faces, making jokes, making girly noises and he said a lot of vulgarities,” said Cardenas-Barajas, laughing.
Wally Alaniz, owner and manager at Wally’s Bicycles in McAllen, remembered Arguelles similarly, calling him “bigger than life.”
“You always wanted to be around Eddie,” Alaniz said. “He was the life of the party, all the time.”
Alaniz emphasized Arguelles’ dedication to family.
“He always had at least one of his kids in tow,” Alaniz said.
Arguelles’ friends set up a fundraiser page to help his family cover funeral expenses. As of 8 p.m. Thursday, the page had raised about $11,800.
Additionally, Arguelles’ group plans to hold a ride in his memory at 5 a.m. Thursday, starting at the Starbucks at 2720 W. University Drive.
A memorial service will be held for Arguelles at 6 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Funeral Home, 208 E. Canton Road in Edinburg.