A motorist who crashed into a group of cyclists taking part in a charity ride in Michigan, killing two and seriously injuring three others, failed to understand the severity of what had happened, a prosecutor has said.
The five cyclists were taking part in the 35th edition of the Make-A-Wish Bicycle Tour, a three-day ride taking in much of the state to raise funds for a charity that aims to fulfil the wishes of critically ill children.
On Saturday 30 July, the riders were heading southbound through Ronald Township, a small town around 100 miles northwest of Detroit, when they were hit head-on by the driver of an SUV who was trying to overtake a United Parcel Service vehicle.
One of the cyclists was pronounced dead at the scene, with the second dying from his injuries after being taken by helicopter to a hospital in Grand Rapids. The victims have been named as 48-year-old Edward Erickson and 57-year-old Michael Selhaney.
42-year-old Mandy Benn has been arrested on two counts of Operating While Intoxicated Causing Death.
On Monday, Ionia County District Attorney Kyle Butler told judge Raymond Voet that Ben admitted to using Adderall and Suboxone before the crash, while police found a bottle containing another prescription drug in her car, Michigan Live reports.
According to the lawyer, there was no indication that the motorist had attempted to brake or slow down before striking the cyclists.
Butler also told the judge that Benn, who has been jailed on a $1 million bond, didn’t appear to understand the extent of what had happened in conversations with police officers at the time of her arrest, allegedly telling them that the scene “almost looks real”.
He said that her speech was slurred, she was struggling to balance and appeared unable to follow instructions.
The District Attorney also told the judge that the motorist had a history of abusing medication and in 2017 had reacted in a similar manner after being arrested for driving while visibly impaired.
Chief Public Defender Walter Downs said that Benn was legally prescribed the medication and that subsequent analysis showed that there was no alcohol in her system, before arguing that the charges would be reduced after the results of blood tests.
Benn could face 30 years in prison if found guilty.
In 2018, another motorist from Michigan was jailed for a minimum of 40 years after killing five cyclists and seriously injuring four others when he ploughed into a group ride near Kalamazoo.
The cyclists, a group of friends who called themselves ‘The Chain Gang’ were out on their weekly ride when Charles Pickett Junior, aged 52, crashed into them in his pick-up truck in Cooper Township on 9 June 2016.
Pickett was sentenced to five consecutive terms of eight to 15 years for operating while intoxicated causing death.
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.