08 June 2018

A Memorial To The Kalamazoo Tragedy

Two years ago this week, Charles Pickett Jr. mowed down five cyclists and severely injured four others in one of the most horrific car-on-bike crashes I've heard of.

Yesterday, a monument those cyclists--part of "The Chain Gang", a group that met every week for a ride--was unveiled in Cooper Township's Markin Glen Park, near the site of the Kalamazoo (Michigan) tragedy.  The four survivors--Paul Gobble, Sheila Jeske, Jennifer Johnson and Paul Runnels--attended along with others.  The five front seats were left empty to honor Debra Ann ("Debbie") Bradley, Melissa Ann Fevig-Hughes, Fred Anton ("Tony") Nelson, Lorenz John ("Larry") Paulik and Suzanne Joan Sippel.  

Local artist Joshua Diedrich designed the monument. The sculpture's sloped curve shape represents the hill on North Westnedge Avenue, where the cyclists were riding at that fateful moment, he explained.  That curve consists of four panels, two telling the story of the crash and the other two listing the names of the killed and injured cyclists.  The monument is topped by five bicycles, one for each cyclist whose lives ended on that evening ride two years ago.  

Survivors (l to r) Sheila Jeske, Paul Runnels, Jennifer Johnson and Paul Gobble in front of the monument.

 After the ceremony, Chain Gang members and other cyclists rode 25 miles to raise funds for maintenance of the memorial and bicycle advocacy in Michigan. A reception followed the ride.

Last month, Pickett was convicted of five counts of murder, five counts of driving while intoxicated and four counts causing serious injury by driving while intoxicated.  Sentencing is scheduled for Monday the 11th.

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