Bicyclist killed in crash ‘had the biggest damn heart you can imagine,’ brother says

The bicyclist killed this week on Seventh Street was a 35-year-old designer who was making a new life for himself in Long Beach before a crash snatched him away from his family, according to a relative.

About a year ago, Ben Rael moved to Long Beach where he’d gotten a promising new position managing interior design jobs at high-end hotels, his brother Tim Rael said.

It was a fresh start.

“He had several years of really hard times. He always stayed positive,” Tim Rael said. “He worked his way through them and things were getting better. It’s the best I’ve ever seen him in his life.”

Despite moving away from his family—including six siblings—in Arizona, Ben Rael stayed close emotionally, sometimes driving through the night or sleeping in his car to visit his brothers and sisters for just a day.

“He was just an amazing guy,” his brother said. “He had the biggest damn heart you can imagine.”

Police said Ben Rael was hit by a pickup truck when his bike veered into oncoming lanes at Seventh Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue around 6:30 a.m. on Aug. 2.

The driver who hit him immediately pulled over and started performing CPR, but Ben Rael died after paramedics took him to the hospital, according to authorities.

A bicyclist was killed in a crash with a pickup truck at Seventh Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue Thursday morning in Long Beach August 2, 2018. Photo by Thomas R Cordova.

He’d just bought the electric bike he was riding after six months of saving up money, his brother said.

“It was only his second day riding it to work,” Tim Rael said. “He called my mom and told her he loved her right before he was killed. He would call her every morning to tell her he loved her and he was OK.”

Tim Rael said he was hoping to get in touch with the truck’s driver.

“Obviously this was just an accident. We don’t want the guy to have to suffer,” he said. “We just want him to be at peace with everything as much as possible.”

Tim Rael said he’d been helping his brother remodel his new house on Cedar Avenue. After work, Ben Rael would head home and work on designs for it, according to his brother.

The finishing touch was going to be a painting by Tim Rael, who works as an artist.

It was based on a picture the two brothers took together one night at the Pine Avenue Pier where Ben Rael liked to spend time, according to his brother.

“It just felt like a really good moment and all of a sudden fireworks went off,” Tim Rael said. He snapped the panoramic photo and spent months turning it into a large acrylic painting, finishing it only recently and revealing it to his brother.

“Three weeks ago, we had the best time ever. It was the last time I saw him,” Tim Rael said. “I was able to show him the painting on the beach. He totally loved it, but we never got to hang it up.”

Tim Rael painted this picture of a photo he and his brother took at the Pine Avenue Pier. Photo courtesy Tim Rael.

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Jeremiah Dobruck is the breaking news editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his journalism career in 2007 as an intern at Palos Verdes Peninsula News and has worked for The Forum Newsgroup in New York City, the Daily Pilot and the Press-Telegram. He lives in Torrance with his wife, Lindsey, and their two young children, Paul and Simon.
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