Two cyclists were killed after an automobile crashed head-on into them and three other riders Saturday morning during the 3-day Make-A-Wish gran fondo style ride in Michigan, USA.
“Some wonderful people, who have hearts of gold and were riding 300 miles to raise money for wish kids, are gone due to a reckless person who made horrible choices today,” participant Rob Casalou posted online.
The Ionia County Sheriff received an emergency call at 11:15 and immediately responded to the scene of the horrifying crash, where they discovered a “vehicular mass-casualty incident,” according to a press release.
An investigation determined five experienced cyclists, all from the same team, were struck by an auto that crossed the center line while trying to pass a UPS delivery on a rural road, hitting the group of cyclists head-on at a high rate of speed.
The impact critically injured all the riders, with one pronounced dead at the scene. Another was flown by rescue helicopter to hospital, but also died from severe injuries. The remaining three riders were transported via ground ambulance to hospital.
Authorities confirmed attorney Michael Salhaney, 57, and automobile industry manager Edward Erickson, 48, both from Michigan, were the two riders killed.
Police evaluated the automobile driver, 43 year-old Mandy Marie Benn, and described her condition at the time of the crash as so stoned that she “had slow and slurred speech, lack of balance and couldn’t follow instructions,” and told officers the jumble of mangled bikes and bodies “almost looks real.”
Benn is now under arrest and charged with two counts of Operating While Intoxicated Causing Death and remains in the county jail held on a $1 million USD bond.
The cyclists were participating in the Make-A-Wish / Wish-A-Mile Ride, a 300 mile cycling event to raise funds to assist children with terminal illness. The event raised over $1.8 million USD this year.
“Our staff and the entire Make-A-Wish family are heartbroken and offer our deepest sympathy for the riders involved, their loved ones, and all members of the Wish-A-Mile (WAM) community at this time.” the group posted on social media. In addition, Make-A-Wish cancelled the event out of respect for the cyclists tragically killed on Saturday and are offering grief counseling to participants.
Photos: Iona County Sheriff, Facebook