Five Killed in Kalamazoo Crash
It was just last year that we mourned the loss of five cyclists, killed in a tragic car-bike crash in Kalamazoo, Michigan. On June 7th, a driver struck nine cyclists, riding as part of a “Chain Gang” group ride. In addition to the fatalities, four others were seriously injured. Charles Pickett Jr., the driver who struck the cyclists, fled the scene, leaving his truck behind. Police quickly nabbed Pickett and determined that he was intoxicated.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recently released their findings in an investigation of the tragic crash, and the results indicate that the crash was preventable. On the morning of June 7th, three separate callers had reported that Pickett was driving erratically. The first of these phone calls came in 22 minutes before the crash. During the interim period, Pickett traveled 14 miles before striking the cyclists in the devastating Kalamazoo crash.
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How Could the Kalamazoo Crash Have Been Prevented?
The NTSB study finds that dispatchers did not effectively share information, including a description of the truck and license plate number, which could have allowed police to make a stop prior to the crash. Although clearly the blame for the crash lies on the head of Pickett, the study indicates that, had information been shared appropriately, Pickett could have been stopped prior to the crash.
As a result of the findings, the NTSB has recommended that the Kalamazoo area consolidate dispatching centers to a central location. This would help dispatchers communicate more effectively with the Sheriff’s Office, Police Department, and other regional authorities.
Pickett, who faces five counts of second degree murder, five counts of operating while intoxicated causing death, and four counts of operating while intoxicated causing serious injury. He could face life in prison if found guilty of these charges. Pickett’s lawyer has notified the court that Pickett plans to plead insanity in the case. The trial date is September 19th.
The Kalamazoo crash made a dramatic impact on cyclists across the nation. As bikers struggle to exert their rights and push for better infrastructure, this case shows how fine the line is between a safe ride and a devastating crash. Surely, none of these nine cyclists could have prevented this crash. Even if dispatchers had communicated effectively, blame for the crash lies with Pickett, alone.
We urge all bikers to ride safely and use appropriate bicycle lanes, when available. Be sure to contact appropriate authorities if you notice anyone driving erratically. And if you are involved in a crash, contact an experienced bicycle crash lawyer immediately for assistance. We mourn the loss of our fellow cyclists in the Kalamazoo crash.