Traverse City Record-Eagle

July 9, 2013

3 women in 3 years hit by dark truck

BY ANNE STANTON astanton@record-eagle.com and MATT TROUTMAN mtroutman@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Kylee Bonne “sank to the floor” after seeing a news story flash on her cellphone: A Traverse City woman died after a dark SUV or pickup truck struck her as she bicycled home from work.

“I can’t stop thinking about her,” Bonne said. “It brought back memories of my night ... when the truck left the roadway and veered toward me.”

Bonne referred to the tragic death of Kelly Ann Boyce, 29, struck down early July 5 by a hit-and-run driver as she pedaled east on Washington Street. She rode within a foot of the curb when a dark SUV or pickup truck — traveling in the same direction — hit her.

Boyce was thrown from the bicycle and became entangled with the vehicle. It dragged her for more than a block to an alleyway on Railroad Street.

Bonne, 31, was hit by a dark SUV or pickup truck on June 28, 2012. Bonne said she spent a “great night” on a local party boat with friends and was riding home on her bright pink cruiser bike, adorned with reflectors, at about 1 a.m. She was nearly six months pregnant and hadn’t been drinking alcohol.

Two years earlier, on July 5, 2010, a 39-year-old bicyclist  was struck at 2:14 a.m. She was riding her bike home in the south alley of the 400 block of State Street and struck from behind by what she observed as a black, full-sized pickup truck. She suffered only minor injuries, according to police reports.

Traverse City Police Captain Brian Heffner said police aren’t discounting the similarities. All three were females, bicycling home from the downtown area in the early morning at very nearly the same time of year.

All three were hit by a dark pickup or SUV that came up from behind them.

“We’re trying to determine if they are all related,” he said. “Obviously, we want to solve all three of them.”

Heffner has also received reports from male bicyclists. Brian Beauchamp and Bill Palladino called the police tip line following Boyce’s death with reports of separate run-ins last year with someone who aggressively drove a dark pickup truck last year.

Beauchamp said he was riding his bicycle on Eighth Street last summer on his way to work when a black pickup came in close behind him.

“He revved his engine behind me, came within inches of hitting me and sped off,” he said. He was unable to read the license plate.

Palladino said he was walking on a sidewalk in the 500 block of Washington Street with his wife and son in March 2012 when they had another scary encounter with a black pickup.

“They clearly saw us and revved their engine as if to announce themselves,” he said. “They did not stop at a stop sign as they were turning toward us. It actually hit the curb and sat there and revved the engine. It was probably about 20 feet from us.”

Palladino said the truck sped off too fast for them to read the license plate, so he didn’t report the incident until reading about Boyce’s death and wondering about a pattern.

Bonne said she was heading south on Union Street after stopping at the House of Doggs. Someone called out, “Nice bike!” as she passed 7 Monks Taproom. A few minutes later, she noticed a truck had pulled out from Eighth Street onto Union just behind her. She decided to cross east onto Ninth Street well in advance of the truck to get home. The truck put on his blinker and followed slowly behind her as she rode on the far right side of the road. She first thought that it might be a friend. Suddenly, the truck accelerated and veered toward her.

“I know I was going to get hit, so I started jumping off my bike and jumped toward the grass. I curled into a ball and rolled onto the grass on my side, protecting my belly,” said Bonne. “It happened really fast. The truck didn’t slow down even when it hit me, and I couldn’t see much. I remember seeing the headlights and the chrome grille and thinking, ‘I can’t believe this truck was hitting me right now.’ I remember seeing a tire eight inches from my head. It just kept driving really fast. It sped around the corner onto Cass Street.”

She suffered a black eye and a leg broken in several spots that perfectly aligned with the bike frame.

Bonne said the truck was black, shiny and new. A witness, who heard her screams described it as either an SUV or a pickup with a topper.

“When I was in the hospital, I saw a commercial for a Cadillac and saw that grille on the Escalade and it gave me chills,” she said.

She said friends didn’t believe her at first when she said the driver deliberately struck her.

“They thought it must have been a drunk driver,” she said. “But I just knew it wasn’t a drunk driver. In my opinion, everything points to someone who has some issues.”

Bonne still rides her bike during the day, but never at night or alone if the city is laden with festival-goers. Her leg has healed, but she still suffers bouts of anxiety, – something new for her.

“I do pilates and yoga,” she said. “I’m normally a very calm person.”