COOPER TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Robert Coffman, who lives just across the street from where five cyclists were killed and four were hurt Tuesday night, says he didn't see the crash, but he saw the 'ugly' scene left behind.
Quietly walking toward the area where debris still sat from the night before, on Wednesday morning Coffman placed a wooden cross, "so people can stop by and pay their respects," he said.
Coffman said several pieces of debris from the bikes landed at the foot of his driveway, which sits roughly 60 yards from the crash site. All five victims killed were pronounced dead at the scene. Edward Pickett, 50, of Battle Creek, was arrested near the scene. Charges are expected to be filed on Thursday, according to the prosecutor's office.
Markus Eberhard told FOX 17 Tuesday night he was almost hit by the driver before the bicyclists were hit.
"Someone told me to watch out and then he almost hit my foot," he said. "I stepped back, blacked out, my body froze and before I could tell the bikers to watch out. That's when I heard a bunch of bikes hit his truck."
Wednesday afternoon, as a memorial at the crash site grew, the five victims killed in the crash were identified as Fred Anton (Tony) Nelson, 73, of Kalamazoo; Larry Paulik, 74, of Kalamazoo; Debbie Bradley, 53, of Augusta; Suzanne Sippel, 56, of Agusta; and Melissa Ann Fevig-Hughes, 42, of Augusta.
The four people who were injured were identified by officials as Paul Gobble, 47, of Richland; Sheila Jeske, 53, of Richaland; Paul Runnels, 65, of Richland; and Jennifer Johnson, 40 of Kalamazoo.
Johnson is currently hospitalized in fair condition. The other three victims are in serious condition.
"It’s pretty rough," Coffman said, reflecting on the second tragedy involving mass causalities to happen in the community in just months.
"I don’t know what people are going to think. You know the other guy went crazy shot a bunch of people. I don’t know what this guy was doing."
Coffman said the group was no stranger to the area, cycling past his home on N. Westnedge two or three times per week. They'd yell hello and wave if he was in his yard, he said.
"I’d yell at them 'Tour de France' and they’d laugh at me and wave," Coffman told FOX 17.
Coffman said the cross he placed at the crash site was something he made several years ago after one of his close friends was killed while riding his motorcycle. He hoped it would never be needed again.
"You don’t imagine it happening any place, but things do happen," he said.
Among several who visited the crash site Wednesday to pay respects was Bill Burns, a member of local bike group Portage Peddlers.
"It really hurts. We’ve had a lot for a small community this year," he said. "But we just have to go on with life."
Burns said his heart goes out to the families of the victims as the entire local biking community, a self-described close-knit group, pulls together to cope.