Call

Blog

Law
02

Blog

Update On The Kalamazoo Cycling Tragedy

On June 22, 2016, the driver who ran down and killed five Kalamazoo cyclists and injured four others was officially brought into a Kalamazoo courtroom and charged with five counts of second-degree murder and four counts of reckless driving causing serious impairment.

At that court proceeding, it was also revealed that the driver, 50-year-old Charles Pickett Jr., was under the influence of an undisclosed drug at the time of the collision. As a result, Pickett is now facing five additional charges of operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing death. At the request of Pickett’s lawyer, the judge has granted a mental competency hearing, to determine whether Pickett is able to understand the charges brought against him.

Pickett struck the nine bicyclists, who were part of a cycling group known as “The Chain Gang,” on June 7, 2016, with his blue pickup truck. The cyclists were heading out on a 30-mile route and were struck from behind after riding only 5 miles. Pickett attempted to flee the scene, but was later apprehended by police. Kalamazoo law enforcement confirmed that, about a half-hour before the collision, they had received complaints of a blue pickup truck driving erratically in the area.

Since the tragedy, the outpouring of support and well-wishes has been nothing short of tremendous. The Michigan cycling community, the Kalamazoo community and the entire nation have offered their support and kind words, rallying around the victims and honoring them in various ways.

Here is a timeline, to help put the tragedy into perspective:

June 8, 2016

  • The 5 bicyclists killed were identified as:
  • Fred Anton (Tony) Nelson, 73, of Kalamazoo
  • Larry Paulik, 74, of Kalamazoo
  • Debbie Bradley, 53, of Augusta
  • Suzanne Sippel, 56, of Augusta
  • Melissa Ann Fevig-Hughes, 42, of Augusta
  • The 4 bicyclists injured were identified as:
  • Paul Gobble, 47, of Richland
  • Sheila Jeske, 53, of Richland
  • Paul Runnels, 65, of Richland
  • Jennifer Johnson, 40, of Kalamazoo
  • Five Ghost Bikes were placed at the scene of the collision, a rural road just north of Kalamazoo. Thank you, Michigan Ghost Bikes: Karen Dunnam, Gayle Underwood and Meg Zapalowski. While they intended to place five Ghost Bikes at the scene, when they arrived, one had already been placed by a neighbor.

June 9, 2016

  • Kalamazoo Prosecutor Jeffrey Getting announced that the following charges were authorized against Pickett: five counts of second degree murder and four counts of reckless driving resulting in serious injury.  At this time, there was no mention of drugs or alcohol being involved. No charges were mentioned regarding Pickett’s attempt to flee the scene.
  • State Senators Margaret O’Brien and David Knezak introduced bills in the Michigan Legislature known as “vulnerable roadway user protections,” that stiffen penalties for a motorist who kills a cyclist, pedestrian or wheelchair user.  A similar bill has been introduced in the Michigan House and is awaiting a hearing and vote in the House Criminal Justice Committee. A change.org petition has also been created, which is being sent to Governor Rick Snyder and Senators O’Brien Knezak.
  • Numerous vigils and tributes began being held for the cyclists and their families, not only in Kalamazoo, but across Michigan and the country.

June 9, 2016

  • The Detroit Metro Times published a fantastic article written by Michael Jackman titled, “Some cry foul on coverage of Kalamazoo cyclists’ deaths.” In the article, Jackman points to the absurdity of the coverage provided by various media outlets, that simply reminded cyclists to “practice bike safety” rather than focus on unsafe, careless and reckless motorists. 
  • The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) confirmed it is investigating the collision, and that it has a team at work in Kalamazoo. A spokesman for the NTSB acknowledged the investigation was not requested by any Kalamazoo agencies, but was being conducted because the collision caught the agency’s attention, particularly because there were five fatalities and many serious injuries. There is also speculation the NTSB decided to investigate because the agency has failed to examine bicycle/motor vehicle safety for decades, and in the meantime there has been a dramatic increase in the number of bicycles on U.S. roads.

June 11, 2016

  • Lance Armstrong announced he was traveling to Kalamazoo on June 14, 2016, to complete the ride that “The Chain Gang” was unable to finish.

June 14, 15 and 16, 2016

Continued Support

  • On June 26, the Kalamazoo Bicycle Club holds its Kal-Tour, and all funds raised will benefit the victims’ families.

Comments

Atlanta Bike Crash
Peter Wilborn Oct 25, 2021

Many of you have heard about the horrific multi-victim crash from October 7, 2021, in which a Chattanooga driver brutally plowed her car into a group of 5 pedestrians as they were crossing a street, causing catastrophic and life changing injuries. In the chaotic aftermath of running a red light and almost killing an entire […]

Read More
Waller Bike Crash Carnage
Rachael Maney Oct 02, 2021

PRESS RELEASE FROM BIKE LAW’S NATIONAL DIRECTOR RACHAEL MANEY In light of the recent Waller Bike Crash in Texas, and in an effort to help untangle and unpack some of the emotionally-charged comments, questions, and inaccurate assumptions being made, we want to update you on the parts that we can share. I hope that this […]

Read More
Brother James
Peter Wilborn Sep 29, 2021

23 years ago today, the world lost my brother Jim. He was killed on his bike by an under-aged driver who blew through a red light. While the years don’t really blunt the loss, they foster gratitude for the gifts left behind. My brother blessed me with so much, but 3 things stand out:   […]

Read More
Family bicycle charity
Bike Law Aug 17, 2021

GUEST POST BY BIKE LAW AMBASSADOR KURT AREHART The bike charity Raleigh Community Kickstand, or just Kickstand for short, is a four year-old project organized under Oaks & Spokes, a 501(c)(3) engaged in fostering cycling in Raleigh. Kickstand channels donated bicycles to low-income and homeless members of our community whose lives can be improved with […]

Read More
Contributory negligence Bike crash
Ann Groninger May 08, 2021

If you’ve met me, you’ve heard talk about contributory negligence many times, including here and here and here. My vocation and my passion as a bike crash attorney is representing injured bicyclists and families of bicyclists who have been killed by careless drivers. Contributory negligence severely impairs the right of these individuals and bicyclists to […]

Read More
Asian-American Triathlete
Rachael Maney May 04, 2021

Bike Month 2021 is setting the bar pretty high. Two days ago, Sika Henry became the first Black woman to earn her pro card in the sport of triathlon. And today, Bike Law and I are honored and excited to announce our sponsorship of the only Asian-American racing on the professional triathlon circuit, Clarice Chastang […]

Read More
Cycliq video close call
Rachael Maney Apr 22, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 23, 2021 Jon Korin, President Bicycle Advocates for Annapolis & Anne Arundel County (‘BikeAAA’) 443-685-4103, [email protected]   Rachael Maney, National Director Bike Law 410-382-7803, [email protected]   DRIVER CONVICTED ON CYCLIQ VIDEO EVIDENCE Christopher Lee Bradshaw of Lothian, MD was convicted of violating Maryland’s 3-foot bicycle passing law and negligent driving on […]

Read More
cycling friendship
Ann Groninger Apr 21, 2021

Cycling friendships are wonderful benefit to our sport and community.  A major part of our work as bicycle “accident” lawyers means putting a value on losses that our clients suffer as a result of injures from crashes. When it comes to past and future medical expenses, lost income and other financial losses, the job is […]

Read More
Contributory Negligence
Ann Groninger Apr 08, 2021

There is finally a positive development in the fight against Contributory Negligence in North Carolina. Last week a bill called the “Victims’ Fair Treatment Act” was filed in the North Carolina Senate. If passed, the bill would finally bring North Carolina into line with all but 3 other states by eradicating this deeply unfair law. […]

Read More
Load More