Driver who hit, killed triathlete pleads guilty

Benjamin VanderPloeg
Benjamin VanderPloeg in court in Grand Rapids on March 1, 2017.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A driver who allegedly swerved into a bike lane, running down a triathlete, has pleaded guilty to charges.

Benjamin Vanderploeg appeared in Kent County Circuit Court Monday, where he pleaded guilty to all three counts of driving on a suspended license causing death, failure to stop at the scene of a crash causing death, and being a fourth-time habitual offender.

On Aug. 17, Vanderploeg hit 66-year-old Charles Driggers as he was training for an Iron Man triathlon on Cannonsburg Road, northeast of Grand Rapids. Vanderploeg left the scene. Driggers died nine days later.

Charles Driggers
A courtesy photo of Charles Driggers.

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.

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)

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 with a suspended license.
VanderPloeg is expected back in court for sentencing on July 18.