Kalamazoo bike deaths: Five dead and four seriously injured after truck plows through cyclists

The suspect is in custody and authorities are expected to announce charges, if any, on Thursday

Feliks Garcia
New York
Wednesday 08 June 2016 16:23
First responders attend to the scene of the deadline 7 June crash <em>AP</em>
First responders attend to the scene of the deadline 7 June crash AP

Michigan police have arrested a man suspected of ramming his pickup truck into a group of nine bicyclists, killing five.

Authorities received reports of a man driving erratically along a road in Cooper Township - a town just north of Kalamazoo - during the half hour before the cyclists were struck from behind.

“There were calls from citizens who were concerned about the way the vehicle was being driven,” Kalamazoo County prosecutor Jeff Getting told reporters.

Police apprehended the 50-year-old suspect shortly after he attempted to flee from his vehicle - disabled from the crash. Authorities are expected to determine and announce charges, if any, on Thursday.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims,” Mr Getting said. “I can’t even begin to imagine what they’re going through.”

According to the prosecutor, all nine cyclists were struck from behind - five died at the scene. The four survivors are still in treatment for serious injuries, and authorities “remain concerned for their health, at this point,” Mr Getting added.

“I seen a Dodge Ram fly past me coming towards my house, and I couldn't figure out why, and I seen a blue truck spin around and land in someone's yard,” witness Markus Eberhard told a local CBS affiliate. "[...]I saw a bunch of bikes hit the front of his truck and a couple of them flew.”

“It hurts me hearing about this kind of stuff," he added. "I live right down the road, and it hurts me. It's not good. I'm glad they got the guy. They caught him from running, and I hope that all the other ones live.“

The area bicycle advocacy organisation issued statements expressing grief and called for more action to prevent tragedies from happening in the future.

“Our hearts are broken that five cyclists lost their lives and four others were seriously injured due to this preventable tragedy,” Renee Mitchell, president of the community organisation, told The Independent. "We extend our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of those impacted by this senseless act. ... There is no way to measure the grief we feel at the loss to the Michigan bicycling community.”

Director of road safety for the KBC, Paul Selden, issued a statement calling for extra measures to be taken for added bicycle safety in the community.

“This senseless tragedy - in my memory, the worst of its kind in Kalamazoo County, and possibly in the entire State of Michigan - underscores that we can do much more,” he wrote.

“Motorists and bicyclists need to share the road safely throughout the year, but especially during peak bicycling season.”

Executive director of the League of Michigan Bicyclists added that the circumstances regarding the hit-and-run "suggest a willful and wanton disregard for human life".

The Kalamazoo Strong Organisation established a fundraiser for the nine victims on its website.

"Our community is amazing and comes together in times of need such as this," the organisation said on their Facebook page Tuesday night. "Hug your loved ones tonight."

This is the second high profile tragedy to occur in Kalamazoo this year. In February, an Uber driver was charged with shooting six people, and endangering others at random, as he drove around picking up passengers. He had reportedly told investigators he was being controlled by the ride-hailing app.

County Prosecutor Getting expressed his sorrow about the two incidents occuring in such close proximity to each other.

"Unfortunately we've seen just months ago a mass casualty incident, and I'm at a loss to describe how I feel. I'm at a loss how to describe the impact to the community from these incidents," he said. "I have every confidence in Kalamazoo, and I know how the community will respond to this. I'm sure that we will all, again, come together in support of our victims' families and in support of our injured.

"I just wish that we had more of an opportunity to get our feet under us before we had to do it again."

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