Man facing more serious charges in crash that killed triathlete

Benjamin VanderPloeg
Benjamin VanderPloeg's mug shot from the Kent County Correctional Facility. (August 2016)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The man accused in a hit-and-run crash that fatally injured a triathlete is facing more serious charges.

Benjamin Allen VanderPloeg, 49, was charged on Wednesday for driving with a suspended license causing death, failure to stop at the scene of an accident causing death and habitual fourth offender.

As a result, his prior charges of driving while license suspended causing injury and fleeing the scene of a serious injury crash were dismissed.

Witnesses said VanderPloeg was driving on Cannonsburg Road, northeast of Grand Rapids, on the night of Aug. 17 when his car swerved into the bike lane and struck Charles Driggers, 66, as he was training for an Iron Man triathlon. Driggers was thrown over the windshield. He and his bike landed several yards away.

Charles Driggers
A courtesy photo of Charles Driggers.

Driggers was critically injured in the crash and died nine days later.

Charles Driggers, bicyclist killed, Cannon Township
A ghost bike at the intersection of Cannonsburg Road and Chauncey Drive northeast of Grand Rapids to remember Charles Driggers. (Aug. 28, 2016)

VanderPloeg has a massive list of driving violations that has kept him from having a valid license for the better part of two decades. He also has multiple convictions for possession of drugs that led to time in prison as late as May 2014.

The car VanderPloeg was allegedly driving belonged to his employer the Lawn Ranger, a landscaping company owned by Brent Fields in Belmont. Fields previously told 24 Hour News 8 that he was unaware of the crash when he noticed damage to his vehicle the next morning and called police to report it.

Jail records show that a week before the crash Fields paid the $500 bail to get VanderPloeg out on a charge of driving while license suspended.

The Kent County Sheriff’s Department is still awaiting toxicology reports from VanderPloeg who investigators say was spotted at a nearby bar shortly before the crash.

A probable cause hearing has been scheduled for Sept. 7 followed by a preliminary hearing on Sept. 14.

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