GRAND HAVEN (WWJ/AP) – A police report says excessive speed and a phone distraction might have contributed to a crash in which five teenage girls from Grand Haven were hurt.
The Grand Haven Tribune obtained the state police’s final investigative report via a Freedom of Information Act request and reported on the findings this week.
Troopers didn’t draw any conclusions about the crash, but cited witness accounts of excessive speed, the driver’s admission that she was looking down at her cell phone and a bottle of open vodka in the back compartment.
The girls were driving March 16 to a basketball game in East Lansing when the crash happened on Interstate 96 near Lowell. Three of the girls were ejected from the car.
Involved in the single-vehicle crash were Emily Bogner, 16; Madison Case, 17; Hannah DeVecht, 17; Danielle Michaels, 16; and Brittney Olds, 16.
According to the police report, Michaels, who was driving, said she was talking with her mother on her cell phone shortly before the crash. She told police she looked down to turn off her phone, and then looked up and saw a vehicle directly in front of her that she thought she was going to hit. The report says Michaels swerved to avoid hitting the vehicle, lost control and went off the road.
Witnesses said Michaels was driving at a high rate of speed and the girls in the back seat waved their arms out the window as they drove by the buses full of fellow Grand Haven students who were also on their way to the girls’ basketball semifinal game in East Lansing, according to the report.
Police say when the vehicle went off the road, it turned sideways, hit the end post of a cable guardrail and rolled over multiple times.
The report says the three back-seat passengers — Olds, Bogner and Case — were not wearing seatbelts and were thrown from the SUV. Olds landed in a westbound lane of I-96, while Bogner and Case came to rest in the grassy median.
Michaels was able to crawl out of the vehicle, but DeVecht was pinned inside until emergency workers could free her from the wreckage. Both Michaels and DeVecht were wearing seatbelts.
All five girls were taken to the hospital, where Olds was placed into a medically induced coma due to the severity of her injuries.
The report also says police found a 3/4 full open fifth of Burnetts Pomegranate Vodka in the vehicle. The report says the bottle was cold to the touch, although the weather was warm that day. When questioned by police, Michaels said she knew the alcohol was in the back seat but she didn’t know who brought it. She also mentioned it might have been left in the vehicle from a previous day.
The Grand Rapids Press says the police report is to be forwarded to the Kent County prosecutor’s office for review.
Months after the accident, Michaels, DeVecht, Case and Bogner returned to classes at Grand Haven High School school, although at different levels of attendance. Olds remains in a rehabilitation hospital.
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