When I took on the position of President of our club, the one thing I never imaginedI'd have to do would be to write a letter of condolence to another bicycle club, in another state. And yet, this weekend on behalf of the membership of BCI, I have written and mailed such a letter to the Kalamazoo Bicycle Club of Kalamazoo, Michigan for the five members of their club killed on their Tuesday evening bike ride last week, as well as four more riders severely injured and hospitalized.
This has been a traumatic week news wise. The murder of Voice TV show singer Christina Grimmie, and then the horrific terrorist massacre Saturday evening of 50 people and 53 injuries, both in Orlando Florida, has eclipsed the reporting of the tragedy in Kalamazoo MI. Here in California, reports of the bike tragedy were minimal. But as far as the families, friends, members of the Kalamazoo Bike Club, as well as cyclists everywhere, all of this in no way diminishes theimpact of the senseless killing and injury of the 9 cyclists on their ride last Tuesday night.
"At approximately 6:30 PM June 7, nine cyclists on their normal Tuesday Evening Club ride were struck from behindby a pickup truck which had already been reported three times by 911 calls for erratic driving. The suspected drunk driver was apprehended trying to flee the scene on foot, was arrested, and has since been charged with 5 counts of 2nd degree murder and 4 counts of reckless driving causing severe injury. He is presently being held without bail. Additionally, the NTSB, (National Traffic Safety Board), the federal safety agency that investigates airplane failures, commercial truck mishaps, train derailments, and impaired driving, is conducting their own investigation, studying the crash site, bikes and the suspected impaired driver of pickup truck that hit the group."
Eric Weiss, spokesman for the NTSB said it has been decades since the agency has "looked at bicycles and cars and safety." Long overdue.
Those who died are Debra Ann Bradley, 53; Melissa Ann Fevig-Hughes, 42, Fred Anton (Tony) Nelson, 73, Lorenz John (Larry) Paulik, 74, and Suzanne Joan Sippel, 56.
The four who were injured are Paul Douglas Gobble, 47, Sheila Diane Jeske, 53, Jennifer Lynn Johnson, 40, and Paul Lewis Runnels, 65. Gobble, Jeske and Runnels are in serious condition and Johnson is listed in fair condition.
The following is an excerpt from a joint statement issued by the League of Michigan Bicyclists and the Kalamazoo Bicycle Club.
“Our hearts are broken that five cyclists lost their lives and four others were seriously injured due to this preventable tragedy,” said Renee Mitchell, President of the Kalamazoo Bicycle Club. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims during this difficult time. We extend our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of those impacted by this senseless act. Our thoughts are also with the injured cyclists. We wish them a quick and full recovery. There is no way to measure the grief we feel at the loss to the Michigan bicycling community.”
“We are grateful that the driver was quickly apprehended after fleeing the scene,” said John Lindemayer, Executive Director of the League of Michigan Bicyclists. “The released details regarding the circumstances surrounding the incident suggest a willful and wanton disregard for human life. We urge local and state police to conduct a comprehensive investigation that will support swift prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.”
The full statement link was posted on the BCI web site on June 10. Additionally, Individuals who would like to aid the victims and their families can contribute funds through the Kalamazoo Strong organization's website which we also posted on our web site on the 10th. BCI will be making a club donation this week.
This is for me without a doubt the worst bicycling / motorist "accident," I have ever heard of in my 30 years of cycling. While there is always an inherent element of risk in road cycling, and we accept that risk, we also do allwe can to minimize the dangers and practice safe cycling. But nothing could possibly prepare us for the shock of what happened this last week, and I'm sure I speak for all of when I say that we all share the pain and loss of what the Kalamazoo Bike Club must be feeling.
I have included a copy of my letter of condolence to the President and members of the Kalamazoo Bicycle Club on behalf of BCI. If any of you would like to personally share your condolences, here is their club web site: www.kalamazoobicycleclub.org
On a lighter note, there are a few upcoming BCI events coming up soon, all of which are on our web site. The Summer Solstice on the 25th, The Glendora Mountain Road Remote ride July 3rd, An Independence Day ride to the parade in Huntington Beach on the 4th and the BCI Bike Rally on July 9. Also don't forget our General Meeting June 28 at a new location, the Duck Club, off Campus Rd in Irvine. So Hopefully we'll see you on some of these events.
Ride carefully, and BE SAFE.
Mike Farrell, President
Kalamazoo Bike Club
PO Box 50527
Kalamazoo, Michigan, 49005
ATTN: Renee Mitchell, President
June 12, 2016
I am writing on behalf of the board and membership of the Bicycle Club of Irvine, located in California. We want to express our deepest sympathies and condolences for the five members of your club who died in the horrible tragedy that occurred last Tuesday evening June 7th. Our thoughts, prayers and best wishes are with you, the families and also the four club members who were injured. They too are in our thoughts and we wish them a speedy recovery.
There are no words that can adequately express our sadness and grief at such an unspeakable event. All of us who participate in the cycling experience know that there is always an element of danger in road cycling and we accept that risk while doing all we can to minimize accidents and practice safe cycling, but nothing could possibly prepare us for the shock of what happened to our fellow cyclists in your club this week. Please know that we share your pain and your overwhelming loss even though we did not know these cyclists personally.
Along with the Kalamazoo Bike club we mourn the loss of these five riders and have faith that your four injured members will ride again. While significant distance separates us, our love of cycling and the bond that experience creates, connects us in a way that only we can understand.
If we can be of any assistance, please let us know. We will also be making a club donation to your web site link in the next few days. You of the Kalamazoo Bike Club are in our thoughts and prayers as you move through these difficult days.
Our Deepest Condolences
Bicycle Club of Irvine
Mike Farrell, President