CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The story of Ryan Marsman’s death as the 6-year-old boy rode his bike did not end Friday in the courtroom.
The boy’s parents have started “Riding for Ryan,” which is handing out yellow bike safety flags to keep kids safe.
“We just don’t want any family to go through what we’re going through, and we want to turn this into something positive, let Ryan do some work,” Ryan’s father, Andy Marsman, said after Friday’s court hearing for the driver in the fatal crash.
The parents created a Facebook page and recently started their son’s work, at places like the Gerald R. Ford International Airport.
“We are handing out to children free of charge bicycle safety flags to help promote visibility and just get the kids seen and to just raise the awareness of drivers that there are a lot of little kids that we can’t see while we’re driving,” Andy Maarsman said.
Andy Marsman, a Cascade Township firefighter, was out riding bikes with his son just days before his son’s 7th birthday in June.
That’s when 22-year-old Matthew Klaasen turned right on red, from Laraway Lake Road to Cascade Road SE, as Ryan was crossing the road with the right of way. He struck the boy with his pickup. Police say there was no texting, no drugs, no alcohol involved in the crash.
In court on Friday, 63rd District Judge Sara Smolenski questioned Klaasen about the crash.
“And you never saw Ryan?” she asked.
“No,” Klaasen said.
“You never saw Ryan’s dad?”
“And then you heard something and you stopped?”
“I heard his dad yelling,” Klaasen said.
“His dad was yelling and hitting the side of the car to get you to stop,” the judge said.
“It never should have happened,” the judge said. “I just wish, wish, wish you could have seen him. I know you didn’t see him.”
The courtroom was filled with families of Ryan and the driver.
Ryan’s parents spoke to the driver in court but didn’t want to be recorded.
“We wanted to tell you we know this was an accident,” Andy Marsman said. “We know you did not choose to do this to Ryan or our family. We want you to know that through our faith we are able to forgive you.”
“It is a miracle right here what you’re seeing,” the judge told Klaasen. “This is faith at its best.”
The parents described their son as a fun-loving boy who liked to make people laugh, and who wanted to be a firefighter, like his dad.
“I’m truly sorry for what I have done,” Klaasen told them. “This has been difficult on me and my family. I cannot imagine the pain that it has caused your family.
“It is hard for me to stand here in front of you knowing that I’m the reason you miss and grieve over the loss of your little son, Ryan. It is a thing that is seared into my memory.
“Thank you for your undeserved forgiveness,” Klaasen said.
Klaasen, who had no record until now, pleaded guilty to a moving violation causing death, a misdemeanor that carries up to a year in jail.
The judge then sentenced him to a year probation and a one-year suspended jail sentence, which means no jail time unless he violates probation.
“I don’t know what going to jail for a day or a year would prove,” the judge said. “Nothing really.”
The judge also ordered Klaasen to 200 hours of community service and to pay for Ryan’s funeral.