Kalamazoo bicycle crash

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Kalamazoo bicycle crash
DateJune 7, 2016
LocationCooper Township, Kalamazoo County, Michigan, United States
Coordinates42°19′27″N 85°35′24″W / 42.32417°N 85.59000°W / 42.32417; -85.59000
Also known asKalamazoo cycling tragedy, Cooper Township crash
TypeBicycle crash
4 injured
SuspectsCharles Pickett Jr.

On June 7, 2016, a pickup truck crashed into a group of cyclists in Cooper Township in Kalamazoo County, Michigan. Five cyclists were killed in the crash, and four were injured. Paul Selden, the Director of Road Safety for the Kalamazoo Bicycle Club, called the crash "the worst of its kind in Kalamazoo County, and possibly in the entire state of Michigan".[1]

A permanent memorial installed at Markin Glen County Park was unveiled in a ceremony that took place on June 7, 2018, the two year anniversary of the tragedy.[2] On June 11, 2018, the driver was sentenced to 40 to 75 years in prison on counts of murder, operating under the influence causing death, and operating under the influence causing injury.

Crash and investigation[edit]

Witnesses noticed a pickup truck driving erratically around Cooper Township, Michigan.[3] The pickup was reported to the police, 30 minutes before the crash occurred.[4]

Around 6:30 PM (Eastern Time), on Westnedge Avenue near Markin Glen Park in Cooper Township, the pickup collided with the back of the group of cyclists.[5][6] The group of bicyclists involved in the crash is called the "Chain Gang".[7] An accident reconstructionist later testified that the pickup had been driving at 58 miles per hour (93 km/h) in a 30 miles per hour (48 km/h) zone.[8] The driver of the pickup escaped, but was soon arrested.[3] Rescue services arrived two minutes after the crash.[9]

The five who died were:[10] Debbie Bradley, 53, of Augusta, a mother and a parishioner of St. Ann Catholic Church and a former nurse with Gull Lake Community Schools, Suzanne Joan Sippel, 56, of Augusta, a data manager with the Kellogg Biological Station, a Michigan State University education and research institute, Lorenz John (Larry) Paulik, 74, of Kalamazoo, a grandfather and a dedicated parishioner at St. Thomas More Catholic Student Parish. Fred Anton (Tony) Nelson, 73, of Kalamazoo, an active parishioner at St. Thomas More, as well as a grandfather and community member, and Melissa Ann Fevig Hughes, 42, of Augusta.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) led an investigation of the crash because of its overall impact.[11] On July 29, 2016, the NTSB issued its preliminary report on the event. They ruled that the driver of the pickup truck "had used medication and illicit drugs before the crash."[12]


The suspect in the bicycle crash was Charles Pickett Jr, a 50-year-old man living in Battle Creek, who drove the pickup in the crash.[13] He was arrested for driving under the influence in Tennessee in 2011, but the charge was dismissed.[14]

The Kalamazoo County Prosecutor charged Pickett with five counts of second-degree murder and four counts of reckless driving.[11] The prosecutor later amended the charges to included five counts of operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing death. The charges were added after the Prosecutors Office reviewed information from the Michigan State Police Crime Lab finished its toxicology report. Blood samples indicated that Pickett was under the influence of methamphetamine, muscle relaxers and pain medication at the time of the crash.[8]

In addition to those charges, the Kalamazoo Prosecutor charged Pickett with four counts of operating while intoxicated causing serious injury, which replace the reckless driving charges he had faced.[15]

In 2018, Charles Pickett Jr. was found guilty on all charges. The jury took only four hours to deliberate.[16] Pickett was sentenced to 40 to 75 years in prison, a total that arose from sentences of 35 to 55 years in prison for each of five counts of murder, served concurrently; 8 to 15 years for each count of operating while under the influence causing death, served consecutively; and 3 to 5 years for each of four counts of operating under the influence causing injury.[8]


Residents of Kalamazoo, who were affected by a shooting spree of February 2016, sympathized with the victims of the crash.[17] Cyclist groups also mourned for the families of the 5 victims.[18]

Cyclist Lance Armstrong sympathized with the families of the victims of the crash, and in an interview on Fox 17 (WXMI-TV) he called the crash "so tragic".[19]


  1. ^ "Five Cyclists Dead and Four Seriously Injured in Hit-and-Run Incident". The Independent. London. June 8, 2016. Retrieved June 10, 2016.
  2. ^ Bissell, Joel (June 8, 2018). "Memorial to Kalamazoo bicycle crash victims unveiled". MLive. Cooper Township, Michigan, USA: Booth Newspapers. Retrieved June 12, 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Witnesses Describe Chaotic Scene when Truck hits Cyclists". CBS News. Associated Press. June 8, 2016. Retrieved June 10, 2016.
  4. ^ "Updated: Group of 9 Bicyclists Hit by Pickup Truck, 5 Killed". Kalamazoo, MI: WWMT-TV. June 8, 2016. Retrieved June 10, 2016.
  5. ^ "5 Bicyclists Killed, 4 Injured when Truck Crashes into Group near Kalamazoo". Walker, MI: WZZM-TV. June 10, 2016. Retrieved June 10, 2016.
  6. ^ Mele, Christopher (June 8, 2016). "5 Bicyclists Killed in Michigan after Pickup Truck Crashes into Them". The New York Times. Retrieved June 10, 2016.
  7. ^ "Bicyclists Bonded as 'Chain Gang' Before Crash that Killed 5". Washington Post. Associated Press. June 9, 2016. Retrieved June 10, 2016.[dead link]
  8. ^ a b c Monacelli, Emily (June 11, 2018). "Charles Pickett Jr. sentenced to 40 years for Kalamazoo bicycle crash". MLive. Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA: Booth Newspapers. Retrieved June 12, 2018.
  9. ^ "5 Bicyclists Killed, 4 Injured After Hit by Vehicle near Kzoo". Grand Rapids, MI: WOOD-TV. June 7, 2016. Retrieved June 10, 2016.
  10. ^ "These are the victims of the deadly Kalamazoo bicycle crash". Kalamazoo Gazette. January 8, 2019 [June 8, 2016]. Retrieved March 20, 2021.
  11. ^ a b Sparks, Kyle (June 10, 2016). "Prosecutor Releases List of Charges against Kalamazoo Bike Tragedy Suspect". Kalamazoo, MI: WWMT-TV. Retrieved June 10, 2016.
  12. ^ "Preliminary Report: Highway HWY16MH014". National Transportation Safety Board. July 29, 2016. Retrieved August 13, 2016.
  13. ^ Monacelli, Emily (June 9, 2016). "Charges Expected Today in Kalamazoo Deadly Bicycle Crash". MLive. Booth Newspapers. Retrieved June 10, 2016.
  14. ^ Henschke, Laura (June 9, 2016). "Kalamazoo Cyclist Crash Suspect Had Previous DUI Charge". Fox 17 Online. Grand Rapids: WXMI-TV. Retrieved June 10, 2016.
  15. ^ Monacelli, Emily (June 22, 2016). "Fatal Kalamazoo Bike Crash Suspect Accused of Drugged Driving". MLive. Booth Newspapers. Retrieved June 23, 2016.
  16. ^ Annis, Robert (May 2, 2018). "Driver in Kalamazoo Crash Convicted of Murder". Bicycling. Retrieved April 14, 2019.
  17. ^ Allen, Robert (June 9, 2016). "Kalamazoo Reels After 2nd Horror in 4 Months". Dallas, TX: WFAA-TV. Retrieved June 10, 2016.
  18. ^ Monacelli, Emily (June 8, 2016). "Bicyclists React to Crash that Killed 5: 'We can't let this change our lifestyle'". MLive. Booth Newspapers. Retrieved June 10, 2016.
  19. ^ Allen, Janice (June 8, 2016). "'So Tragic': Lance Armstrong Discusses Crash that Killed Kalamazoo County Cyclists". Fox 17 Online. Grand Rapids, MI: WXMI-TV. Retrieved June 10, 2016.