COOPER TOWNSHIP, MI (WOOD) — Five bicyclists were killed and four more were hurt Tuesday evening when they were hit by a pickup truck north of Kalamazoo.
The crash happened around 6:35 p.m. in the 5500 block of N. Westnedge Avenue south of F Avenue in Cooper Township. That’s near Markin Glen Park.
Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo said Tuesday night it was treating two of the victims, but did not release any further details about those patients. Borgess Medical Center in Kalamazoo also said it was treating two patients. One was listed in critical condition and the other in fair condition.
Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting said at a press conference about four hours after the crash that all of the victims were adults and that the survivors all sustained serious injuries. Authorities would not release any further information about any of the victims Tuesday night pending the notification of their family members.
A witness said the bicyclists appeared to be a group that often rides together in the area, but Getting wouldn’t comment on that.
The group of bicyclists was struck by a blue Chevrolet pickup truck as they rode along Westnedge. Witnesses said the truck was driving erratically.
Markus Eberhard said he was leaving Markin Glen Park after fishing when someone shouted at him to watch out. He said the pickup nearly ran over his foot. He said before he could “tell the bikers to move or watch out,” the pickup hit them.
“I saw a bunch of bikes hit the front of his truck and a couple of them flew,” Eberhard said.
“All I heard was a pop and a really big crash noise,” another witness, Arika Kruger, said.
Prosecutor Getting said the first emergency responders arrived in about two minutes. Five of the bicyclists were pronounced dead at the scene.
Kruger said she saw four ambulances leave the scene; three had lights on, one had lights and sirens running.
“We didn’t see anybody walk away,” she said. “I pray for these families, I really do, because this is really tragic.”
The pickup was disabled in the crash, Getting said. Kruger said it sustained heavy front-end damage.
A driver fled on foot after the crash, then was found a short distance away and taken into police custody, Getting said. He was described only as a 50-year-old man from West Michigan Tuesday night.
Multiple police and fire agencies remained on the scene for hours after the crash. The Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office is leading the investigation while Michigan State Police are handling crash reconstruction.
In the about 30 minutes before the crash, calls came in to the City of Kalamazoo police (at 6:08 p.m.), the sheriff’s department (6:13 p.m.) and Kalamazoo Township police (6:21 p.m.) with concerns about the way a man was driving a blue pickup truck, Getting said. Officers were looking for that vehicle, but had not yet spotted it and were not pursuing it at the time of the crash.
The first 911 call about the crash came in at 6:36 p.m.
Getting said he didn’t expect to review the investigation into the crash until Thursday at the earliest, after which he would determine what, if any, charges were appropriate.
The Kalamazoo Strong Organization has set up a fund for the victims of the crash and their families. You can donate at the organization’s website.
“It’s sad. We haven’t healed from the first mass tragedy that we’ve experienced and here our city has been hit with another one. But Kalamazoo is strong and we rally together, we take care of our own,” said Rachel Keiser with the Kalamazoo Strong Organization.
Renee Mitchell, the president of the Kalamazoo Bicycle Club, sent a statement which read in part: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends impacted by this entirely preventable tragedy. In the next few days, as we learn more information we will make a more extensive statement.”
–24 Hour News 8’s Heather Walker and Sarah Hurwitz contributed to this report.
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