Victims of deadly Kzoo Co. cycling crash ID’ed

Four remain in hospitals after Cooper Township crash

Kalamzoo Cycling Victims, Debbie Bradley, Melissa Fevig-Hughes, Tony Nelson, Larry Paulik, Suzanne Sippel
Top, left to right: Debbie Bradley and Melissa Fevig-Hughes. Bottom, left to right: Tony Nelson, Larry Paulik and Suzanne Sippel. (Undated courtesy photos)


COOPER TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A Kalamazoo County woman and three Catholic parishioners are among the five cyclists hit and killed by a pickup truck in Kalamazoo County.

Around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, nine bicyclists were hit from behind near Markin Glen Park in the 5500 block of N. Westnedge Avenue in Cooper Township, north of Kalamazoo.

Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeffrey Getting released a full list of the victims’ names Wednesday afternoon.  Among those killed:

  • Debra Ann Bradley, 53, of Augusta
  • Melissa Ann Fevig-Hughes, 42, of Kalamazoo
  • Fred “Tony” Nelson, 73, of Kalamazoo
  • Larry John Paulik, 74, of Kalamazoo
  • Suzanne Joan Sippel, 56, of Augusta

Four other bicyclists seriously injured in the crash were taken to Bronson Methodist Hospital and Borgess Medical Center in Kalamazoo.  Those victims include:

  • Paul Douglas Gobble, 47, of Richland
  • Sheila Diane Jeske, 53, of Richland
  • Jennifer Lynn Johnson, 40, of Kalamazoo
  • Paul Lewis Runnels, 65, of Richland

Three of the victims — Gobble, Jeske and Runnels — remained in serious condition Wednesday. Gobble’s wife said he was undergoing surgery and expected to make a full recovery.

Johnson was listed in fair condition Wednesday, Getting said. Her mother-in-law told 24 Hour News 8 she was in and out of surgery Wednesday.

The Kalamazoo Strong Organization has set up a fund for the victims of the crash and their families. You can donate at the organization’s website.

REMEMBERING THE RIDERS

Sippel worked at Michigan State University’s W.K. Kellogg Biological Station in Hickory Corners, MSU officials confirm.

Bradley was a substitute school nurse at Kellogg Elementary in Gull Lake Community Schools, according to the district. The district said she also participated in its Youth Depression Advisory Committee, the Gull Lake Wellness Committee and the District Human Reproduction and HIV/AIDS Committees.

“Deb selflessly gave her time, effort and energy to the students, staff and parents of Gull Lake Community Schools,” the district said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family and all those affected by this tragic event.”

The Diocese of Kalamazoo said three of its parishioners were among those killed. Bradley was a member of St. Ann Catholic Church in Augusta. Nelson and Paulik were longtime members of St. Thomas More Catholic Parish in Kalamazoo.

“Our beloved community of Kalamazoo has once again suffered a devastating and shocking loss, and more than ever we are called to draw upon the strength and goodwill of everyone in this caring, vibrant community.  Amidst this tragedy, we ask for God’s grace to help us remain strong and to be united in our prayers and support for all as we grieve with one another,” stated Bishop Paul J. Bradley with the Diocese of Kalamazoo.

“It’s one of these situations — and a lot of people have understood this — it’s like a bad dream that you expect to wake up from,” Sister Pamela Owens of St. Thomas More said.

A church is more than a building. It’s people like Paulik and Nelson.

“It’s a wonderful parish because of people like Tony and Larry,” Owens said.

She said their deaths were “very shocking.”

“They were large men because they helped so much in the community. Their hearts were so, so big. They were so giving,” she continued. “They loved bicycling. That was their passion. They were two good friends who were bicycling together at the time met the Lord.”

St. Thomas More will hold a community prayer service 7 p.m. Thursday at the church, located at 421 Monroe St. near Western Michigan University campus. That service is open to everyone of all faiths.

>>Inside woodtv.com: Complete coverage of the Kalamazoo cycling tragedy

RIDE OF SILENCE

A Ride of Silence began at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Arcadia Brewing Company on E. Michigan Avenue and then proceeded about five miles through Kalamazoo in honor of the victims. More than 500 people participated.

“Talk about Kalamazoo Strong,” said Sheila Wood, who organized the Ride of Silence. “These were people who were community active, they were active as individuals. They were definitely people who were seizing life.”

“They were doing something they love. I don’t think they would’ve wished to sacrifice their families for it however,” she continued.

She’s an avid cyclist and knew several of the victims.

“We all share the loss of this,” she said. “A lot children woke up motherless today; husbands lost their wives, woke up without a wife.”

She said the community is uniting in the midst of the tragedy, which comes only a few months after the shooting spree in the area that left six people dead.

“It’s been hit very hard, it’s been hit harder than I think any community I can think of,” Wood said.

MEMORIAL AT SCENE OF THE CRASH

Five ghost bikes and several flower bouquets rested at the scene of the crash Wednesday, signs of support for the victims and their families.

Ghost bikes sit at the scene of where five bicyclists were killed in Cooper Tonwship. (June 8, 2016)
Ghost bikes sit at the scene of where five bicyclists were killed in Cooper Township. (June 8, 2016)

Jason Bowen, who is originally from Kalamazoo but now lives in Pennsylvania, stopped by the scene of the crash with his son to drop off flowers at the makeshift memorial.

“This community’s been through a lot. This is just a horrible situation,” he said. “I figure this is the least we could do being from out of the area to show our respect for the family and everybody that’s going through tragedy right now.”

There’s a tight-knit bicycling community in the Kalamazoo area. Many cyclists who spoke to 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday know the victims of the crash.

“It’s a heartbreaking event,” cyclist Douglas Kirk said. “This is something we all love and do because we love. It’s one of our greatest joys. And to have something like this happen, it just it defies description. It breaks your heart.”

“Our hearts are broken that five cyclists lost their lives and four others were seriously injured due to this preventable tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims during this difficult time. We extend our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of those impacted by this senseless act. Our thoughts are also with the injured cyclists. We wish them a quick and full recovery. There is no way to measure the grief we feel at the loss to the Michigan bicycling community,” said Renee Mitchell, president of the Kalamazoo Bicycle Club in a statement Wednesday.

>>PDF: Statement from Kalamazoo Bicycle Club

Complete Streets Coalition of Kalamazoo issued the following statement Wednesday:

“To those injured, we wish a complete recovery. This incident, while tragic, will inspire us to redouble our efforts to not only make our streets safe for all users but to change the paradigm that allows these situations to occur.”

–24 Hour News 8’s Joe LaFurgey and Sarah Hurwitz contributed to this report.

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