COOPER TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The National Transportation Safety Board has released its preliminary findings on a June 7 crash that killed five bicyclists and injured four others.
According to the report, the cyclists were traveling northbound on Westnedge Avenue in Cooper Township around 6:29 p.m. at the time of the crash. They were riding single-file on a 4 foot wide shoulder.
The report says a 1996 Chevrolet pickup approached the bikers in the 5500 block of North Westnedge Avenue. The truck then left the roadway, went onto the shoulder and struck the nine bicyclists from the rear for what the NTSB calls “an unknown reason.”
Immediately after striking the bicyclists, the report says the truck continued off of the roadway and came to rest in a drainage ditch. The driver of the truck, 50-year-old Charles Pickett Jr., fled the scene, but was caught shortly after by authorities.
According to the report visibility was “clear and unobstructed” in both directions at the time of the crash. The posted speed limit on that portion of Westnedge Avenue is 35 mph. There are no rumble strips or markings on the pavement that designate a bicycle lane, the report says.
Pickett faces five counts of second-degree murder, four counts of reckless driving causing impairment, as well as five counts of operating while intoxicated causing death. According to police reports, Pickett took pain pills and muscle relaxers in the hours before the crash.
Witnesses reported to authorities that the truck was driving erratically prior to the crash. The first call was received about 22 minutes before the crash, according to the report.
The NTSB said in the report that the investigation is ongoing.