Two cyclists killed on W. Michigan charity ride identified, driver charged

Associated Press

A woman was charged Monday with causing the deaths of two bicyclists who were struck by her vehicle while riding in a weekend charity event in west Michigan.

Mandy Benn, 43, was charged Monday in 64-A District Court in Ionia with operating while intoxicated causing death and other crimes. It wasn’t immediately known if she has a lawyer yet.

Bond was set at $1 million. She remains in the Ionia County Jail.

The police determined five cyclists were injured by an SUV that crossed the center line into northbound traffic while trying to pass another vehicle.

Benn was driving an SUV north on Stage Road on Saturday when she allegedly struck the group of five southbound cyclists. Two cyclists were killed and three were severely injured in the crash. 

The men were hit during a three-day endurance ride for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

The two who died were identified as Edward Erickson, 48, of Ann Arbor and Michael Salhaney, 57, of Bloomfield Hills.

Prosecutor Kyle Butler said Benn was trying to pass a UPS truck on the rural road when she crossed the center line and hit the bicyclists..

She had no alcohol in her system but had slurred speech and couldn’t follow instructions, Butler said.

There’s evidence that she used prescription drugs, he said.

“People want to believe that bicyclists can protect themselves by wearing the right protective equipment, using the right lights or riding in the correct way,” said Matt Penniman of the League of Michigan Bicyclists. “None of those were sufficient to protect these riders, and blaming victims is never appropriate.”

Make-A-Wish Michigan canceled the final day of its annual weekend-long Wish-A-Mile Bicycle Tour event out of respect for the families of the cyclists killed.

"Our staff and the entire Make-A-Wish family are heartbroken and offer our deepest sympathy for the riders involved, their loved ones, and all members of the WAM community during this difficult time," the nonprofit said in a statement. "We are thankful to the first responders who arrived immediately to save lives."

The nonprofit also is offering grief counseling to riders, staff and volunteers participating in the 35th annual tour.