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December 16, 2018

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Prosecutor: Pickup sought prior to crash that killed 5

COOPER TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Police were seeking a pickup truck due to reports that it was driving erratically minutes before five adults in a group of bicyclists were struck and killed on a street in western Michigan, a prosecutor said Tuesday night.

Four other bicyclists suffered serious injuries early Tuesday evening in Cooper Township and were being treated at area hospitals. None of the victims was a child, as was earlier reported.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims," Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeffrey Getting said during a news conference. "I can't even begin to imagine what they're going through."

The driver of the pickup, described as a 50-year-old western Michigan man, fled from the wrecked vehicle and police caught him a short time later. No charges have yet been filed, but they could come by Thursday, Getting said.

Authorities began receiving calls about a blue pickup truck about 30 minutes before the crash, he said.

Concerns were "about the manner in which that vehicle was being driven," Getting added, without addressing possible reasons for the erratic driving.

The first report of the bicyclists getting hit was at 6:36 p.m.

"This was not an incident that happened during any kind of police pursuit," Getting said. "The police were actively looking for the vehicle based on the information that had been called into them."

The bicyclists were riding as a group. Their names and ages were not immediately released because family members were still being notified. The group included men and women.

Early information is that they were northbound and on the right shoulder of the road when they were struck from behind, Getting said.

Markus Eberhard was leaving the park after fishing and said he nearly was hit by the pickup. He was unable to warn the bicyclists.

"I saw a bunch of bikes hit the front of his truck and a couple of them flew," Eberhard told WOOD-TV.

Paramedics and fire crews rushed to the scene near a park within minutes of the bicyclists being hit, Getting said.

Few other details were released Tuesday night.

"There's very little I can and will tell you about exactly how this incident happened," Getting said.

He declined to answer several questions about the suspect and said the driver's name would not be released until his office has had an opportunity to make a determination about charges.

Cooper Township is south of Grand Rapids and just miles from Kalamazoo. The area still is dealing with the random fatal shootings of six people and wounding of two others in February. Jason Dalton, 45, had been picking riders for Uber at the time of the shootings. He is charged with murder and attempted murder. His attorney told a judge Monday that Dalton is expected to plead insanity in his defense.

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