Survivor: Kalamazoo cycling tragedy ‘still seems surreal’

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KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — One of the nine cyclists struck by a pickup truck north of Kalamazoo last week says she still can’t believe what happened.

Sheila Jeske survived the June 7 crash with a dislocated hip, a broken ankle, broken ribs, a collapsed lung and other bone breaks and bruises. She is out of the hospital and at home recovering.

She made her first public appearance since the crash Tuesday, when she attended a memorial ride led by Lance Armstrong. She also went back to the crash site.

“All I can say it was a beautiful place that they took their final breath,” she told 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday.

When asked what she remembered about the day of the crash, she said there were gaps.

“Susanne (Sippel) and Deb (Bradley) texted and they wanted me to go and I wasn’t going to go,” she said.

When the ladies learned that their friend Jennifer Johnson was leading the ride, the women decided to go.

“We thought, OK, we’re going to get the girls out,” Jeske said.

Jeske remembers it was a cool night and her first ride of the season with the Chain Gang cycling group.

“But that’s all I remember. I don’t remember putting my foot over the bike seat to start riding,” she said. “I have no recollection of the accident scene.”

The next thing she remembers is  waking up in the hospital and asking about her friends.

Bradley and Sippel were both killed in the crash, as were Melissa Fevig-Hughes, Tony Nelson and Larry Paulik. Jeske, Johnson, Paul Runnels and Paul Gobble were hurt.

“I still don’t think it’s settled in,” Jeske said Wednesday. “I’ve gone to one of my good friend’s funerals and visitation. It seems surreal still.”

She said she has talked two other survivors and none of them recall seeing a truck or the crash. She has nothing to say to the driver of the pickup. Charlie Pickett now faces five murder charges in connection to the crash.

“I’ve seen his picture. It’s the furthest thing from my mind and I hope he goes away forever for what he did if he did this intentionally,” Jeske said.

She and other members of the Chain Gain pride themselves on safety. She said she wants the crash to serve as a reminder that cars need to share the road.

“If you have to slow down 30 seconds to wait for a safe passing zone to pass us, that’s the law, you need to do that,” she said. “These accidents keep happening and this one was just the icing on the cake, I guess, and maybe it will bring more attention that the cycling community needs.”Online:Support the Survivors of Kalamazoo Bicycle Tragedy’s Facebook pageKalamazoo Strong OrganizationComplete coverage of the Kalamazoo cycling tragedy

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