IONIA COUNTY, MI – A woman accused of causing a crash that killed two bicyclists and critically injured three others did not appear to grasp the seriousness of what had happened, a prosecutor said.
Mandy Benn, 42, of Ionia, was arraigned Monday, Aug. 1, on two charges of operating while intoxicated causing death after she crashed into a group of bicyclists Saturday on a Make-A-Wish bicycle tour.
Edward Erickson, 48, of Ann Arbor, and Michael Salhaney, 57, of Bloomfield Hills, were killed.
Ionia County District Judge Raymond Voet ordered Benn jailed on a $1 million bond.
Related: Make-A-Wish ‘heartbroken’ after 2 cyclists killed during 300-mile ride in Michigan
Ionia County Prosecutor Kyle Butler told the judge that Benn admitted she had used Adderall and Suboxone before the crash while police found a bottle of another prescription medication in her vehicle.
Benn was driving north on Stage Road in Ionia County’s Ronald Township when she passed a UPS truck then struck the southbound bicyclists, Butler said. In talking to police at the scene, she did not appear to understand the gravity of the tragedy.
Related: Police identify bicyclists who died after being hit while riding in Make-A-Wish event
She told police that the scene “’almost looks real,’” Butler told the judge.
There was no indication at the scene that Benn slowed down or used her brakes before colliding with the bicyclists, the prosecutor said.
He said that Benn had a similar response when she was arrested in 2017 for operating while visibly impaired.
In the first instance, her speech was slowed down and she had trouble following directions, Butler said.
He said Benn had a history of abusing medication.
Chief Public Defender Walter Downes said his client had been legally prescribed medications and said charges will be lowered once results of blood tests are complete. She had no alcohol in her system, tests showed.
Butler had asked for a $100,000 bond but the judge set it at $1 million. The judge said the deaths and injuries gave him “great pause” in setting bond.
Benn’s attorney asked for $25,000 to $50,000.
The charges are 15-year felonies. A judge could order the penalties to be served consecutively upon conviction.
Benn lives with her father and grandmother. Her father was in court.
Benn recently returned to work at the Amazon fulfillment center near Grand Rapids after being out with a hand injury, her attorney said.
The bicyclists were riding in the 35th Annual Wish-A-Mile Bicycle Tour.
“It is with heavy hearts we remember our riders impacted by the tragedy,” Make-A-Wish Michigan said in a statement. “Our staff and the entire Make-A-Wish family are heartbroken and offer our deepest sympathy for the riders involved, their loved ones, and all members of the Wish-A-Mile community during this difficult time.”
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