HOLLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) - The driver of a car that hit and killed a bicyclist Thursday night told sheriff's deputies she was blinded by the sun, according to the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office.
The crash happened just before 7 p.m. at the intersection of 104th Avenue and Riley Street in Holland Township, less than a mile from the victim's home.
"[The driver] claims that she was driving westbound, the sun blinded her and she did not see the stop sign or the bicycle crossing at the four-way stop," Ottawa County Sheriff's Sgt. Steve Austin said. "The car ran through the stop sign and hit the bicycle."
The victim has been identified as 51-year-old Barbara Roels and the driver of the Honda Civic was 35-year-old Kelly Briggs of Zeeland Township.
Roels suffered serious injuries at the scene. She was taken to Holland Hospital and then transferred to Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids where she died.
"It was bad, it was, [my husband] ran there and called 911, gave the phone to another bystander and [Roels] wasn't breathing," said Stephanie Meyers, who lives by the busy intersection.
Myers said her husband was mowing the lawn when the accident happened.
"He just was kind of glancing up and heard the noise of the crash," Myers said. "[He] looked up and just saw this woman like a rag doll being thrown about 30 foot in the air."
In the sixteen years she's lived near the intersection, Meyers said she's seen the traffic, and Riley itself, grow.
Meyers said she has personally seen a car-versus-bicycle crash before, and believes something needs to change.
"I don't know what needs to be done, but a light, traffic signal, rumble strips, all those things have been mentioned by neighbors over the past year," Myers said. "We've all said something's gotta change."
But Sgt. Austin said he wouldn't call it a dangerous intersection.
"There are distracted drivers that do fail to yield and do run the stop sign, we do get several crashes at intersections like this," he said.
24 Hour News 8 looked into it on Friday and learned there were 15 relatively minor accidents at that intersection between 2009 and 2012.
Deputies said Briggs immediately stopped, she didn't seem to be speeding or using drugs or alcohol, and was very cooperative with police.
Austin said deputies will be back at the scene of the accident Friday night at around 7 p.m. to see if the sun is blinding at that intersection, at that time of day.
Whether it is or not, Austin said Briggs could potentially be charged. He said even if the sun is blinding, that would mean Briggs may have been driving while impaired and should have pulled over.
"If you are blinded by the sun, stop driving. Pull over and stop driving. You're impaired, you're impaired by the sun, you're blinded," Austin said. "We have had crashes before where people indicated they were blinded by the sun and we went back and did some tests of our own and, yeah, they were blinded by the sun, however they continued to drive and cause the accident. So it's possible that they could be facing charges."
As of early Friday evening, no charges had yet been filed.
Roels did not have her identification at the time of the wreck, and authorities were unable to identify her for about four hours until her husband called them, saying she was missing.
24 Hour News 8 checked Briggs' driving record, which shows no prior incidents.
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