Red Hat Developer Vidal Killed by Hit-and-Run Driver While Bicycling

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2013-07-11

Red Hat Developer Vidal Killed by Hit-and-Run Driver While Bicycling

Red Hat Fedora developer Seth Vidal died July 8 from injuries caused by a hit-and-run driver whose vehicle struck Vidal on a Durham, N.C., road while he was riding his bicycle.

Vidal, 36, an avid cyclist and open-source developer, was killed by a motorist who later turned himself in to police on July 9, according to a report from in Raleigh. Vidal was biking north in the 1700 block of Hillandale Road around 9 p.m. when he was hit from behind, according to the news report. He was pronounced dead at Duke University Hospital.

The driver of the car that struck him, Maceo Christopher Kemp Jr., 27, of Manson, was charged with felony hit-and-run and driving while his license was revoked, WRAL reported. Kemp's bail was set at $50,000, the station reported.

News of Vidal's death circulated quickly in the open-source community, with Red Hat posting a moving tribute, titled "Thank you, Seth Vidal," on the company's Website on July 10:

"Collaboration and community are truly at the heart of everything Red Hat does. Seth Vidal, a longtime member of the Fedora Project and Red Hat's Fedora team, espoused these values and represented the best of open source. He was a lead developer of the yum project, the software package manager used by Fedora, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and other RPM-based distributions. He played a significant role in the Fedora infrastructure team, working tirelessly to keep the lights on and leading the efforts to make building and managing third-party package repositories easy for Fedora developers.

"With permission from Seth's loved ones, it is with great sadness that we share that Seth died tragically on July 8. The entire Red Hat family extends our sympathies to Seth's family and friends during this difficult time.

"In the last 24 hours, Red Hatters from around the world have expressed their condolences and remembered Seth on memo-list, Red Hat's infamous internal mailing list where Seth himself was a regular and passionate contributor. We've seen Seth described as funny, smart, charming, sometimes opinionated, and always a fervent supporter of open source.

"Seth's contributions span far and wide in the open source community, and his impact will live on through the millions of people around the world who touch open source each day.

"Thank you, Seth, for everything you contributed to open source, to Fedora, and to Red Hat. We will miss you, and you will never be forgotten."

Two of Vidal's friends and colleagues at Red Hat told eWEEK that Vidal was a special person and a friend to many.

At Fedora user and developer conferences in the past, said Kevin Fenzi, a senior software engineer with Red Hat, large groups of people would often gather after the presentations were finished and the groups would be filled with laughter and conversations. "Right in the middle of the crowds, you'd find Seth," said Fenzi, who knew Vidal since 2005. "He'd give you his honest opinion about anything you wanted to run by him."

Over the last few years, since Fenzi was hired to lead the Fedora infrastructure team, he would talk with Vidal "pretty much every day," he said. "He was just an amazing person. It's really hard to encapsulate someone's life. There's so much stuff to talk about and so many people he touched."

Red Hat Developer Vidal Killed by Hit-and-Run Driver While Bicycling

Paul W. Frields, a senior engineering manager at Red Hat, has known Vidal since 2004 when they met online while working on Fedora. "He was very logical but also very warm and also very passionate about the things that he believed in. He was really good at stomping on bad ideas before they could reproduce."

At the same time, though, "Seth was never mean about it," said Frields. "He never confused the bad idea with the person. That was one of the best things about Seth. He never got those things backward."

When Frields first met Vidal in person, in 2005 at a Fedora conference, "I expected him to walk in and he was going to be 8 feet tall and breathe fire out of his nostrils and smoke out of his ears" because of his logical nature and deep development experience. "So I had this expectation and I was completely surprised to find that he was a great speaker and was incredibly funny, incredibly clever, with a very joking and sardonic manner. He was really a warm and funny guy."

And like Fenzi, Frields agreed that Vidal always seemed to be in the middle of every group of people, wherever he was. "Whatever group Seth was in, you can guarantee there was going to be more laughter than anything else. He has been for a long time one of the crucial vertebrae in the backbone of making Fedora's wheels turn properly for all of our contributors."

At the Fedora Project Website, Robyn Bergeron, the Fedora project leader, posted that group's tribute to Vidal on July 9:

"The Fedora Project has lost a valued, longtime member of its community. Seth Vidal died last night, July 8.

"Seth was a lead developer of yum and the update repository system, and a contributor to the CentOS project as well as the original Fedora Extras system. He worked tirelessly on the infrastructure for the Fedora Project to make all systems work well and consistently for our contributors around the world. He was a gifted speaker, a brilliant thinker, a clever wit, a humble and genuinely funny person, and a good friend.

"The Fedora community owes an enormous debt of gratitude to Seth's dedication to Fedora and other free software projects, his commitment to community values, and his passion for excellence in his work. To say he will be missed is an understatement. He has been a colleague, a team member, a source of wisdom and advice, and above all, a friend and inspiration to countless people in the Fedora community over the past decade. His seminal and invaluable work in Fedora and free software will live on for years to come, and the legacy of his spirit will stay with the community, and with many of us individually, forever.

"Our thoughts are with his partner Eunice, the rest of his family, and Seth's many friends and coworkers. 

"I know that many members of the Fedora community will want to personally share their condolences. We'll provide further information as soon as it is available."

Rocket Fuel