Battle Creek cyclists reflect on those lost in tragedy before group ride
Battle Creek – In one of the first group cycling rides in more than a year, about 50 people were reminded of a bicycling tragedy five years ago.
“Be careful and have a lot of fun and think about the people who are not here with us,” Mike Wood said before the Tuesday evening ride from Mike’s Team Active Bikes.
Wood, owner of the downtown Battle Creek shop, was one of about 50 people who gathered for a weekly ride; something they were prevented from doing last year because of the COVID-19, according to the Battle Creek Enquirer.
“The word ‘group’ was a swear word you couldn’t utter,” he said.
The weekly ride was the third time in two weeks that cyclists gathered for a group event. Before they left, Wood reminded them that five years earlier, on June 7, 2016, five people were killed and four others seriously injured when a pick-up truck driven by a Battle Creek man struck the cyclists during a weekly recreational ride north of Kalamazoo.
“I want to welcome everyone,” Wood said Tuesday, June 8. “It was five years ago yesterday that we had a horrific accident and a lot of friends I know and a lot of you knew the people who were involved.
“I know that they are looking down and are very happy that life is going on and we are doing what they love,” Wood said.
The five who died were:
• Debbie Bradley, 53, of Augusta.
• Suzanne Joan Sippel, 56, of Augusta.
• Lorenz John “Larry” Paulik, 74, of Kalamazoo.
• Fred Anton “Tony” Nelson, 73, of Kalamazoo.
• Melissa Ann Fevig Hughes, 42, of Augusta.
Paul Gobble, Jennifer Johnson, Paul Runnels and Sheila Jeske survived the crash.
Wood said he knew all nine of the cyclists and his wife taught two family members at Gull Lake schools.
“I knew all of them and it hit really close to home,” Wood said. “The world got really small.”
Wood said many riders in Battle Creek knew the victims and some who didn’t were affected by the crash, including cyclists who no longer ride road bikes.
“It will be part of me,” Wood said before the ride.
The driver of the pickup, Charles Pickett Jr., of Battle Creek, was convicted by a jury in Kalamazoo County of 14 counts including second-degree murder, operating under the influence of drugs causing death and operating under the influence of drugs causing serious injuries.
Pickett, 55, was sentenced June 11, 2016 to 40 to 75 years in prison and is not eligible for parole until 2056. He is an inmate at the Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater.