WALLED LAKE (WWJ) – Investigators say it appears a 15-year-old Walled Lake boy — driving on a learner’s permit with his mother in St. Clair County — was at fault in an accident with a milk truck that claimed both of their lives.
Killed was Jerrod Smith, a student at Walled Lake Western High School, and 52-year-old Karen Smith, who police say were on their way for a weekend of camping Thursday afternoon, when the accident occurred in Burtchville Township, north of Sarnia.
St. Clair County Sheriff Tim Donnellon said Jerrod was driving eastbound on Burtch Road, attempting to turn left onto Lakeshore Road when he was broadsided by the oncoming tanker.
The truck, Donnellon said, had the right of way.
“This was not like there was alcohol, or speed, or texting or anything of that nature,” Donnellon said. “This was a young, inexperienced driver trying to learn who didn’t see the truck coming, or misjudged the speed.”
“You know, just don’t wake up one morning and having driving experience,” Donnellon said. “You have to be behind the wheel to get comfortable, and occasionally a terrible accident like this occurs.”
Donnellon said Smith’s 21-year-old sister, who was also in the family’s SUV at the time, survived the crash.
“I have a 15-year-old on on a learner’s permit myself,” the sheriff added. “It’s just a terribly unfortunate, heartbreaking accident.”
Judy Evola with the Walled Lake Consolidated School District, said Jerrod was an outstanding student athlete.
“He performed well academically his freshman year; he was a member of both the freshman soccer and basketball teams,” Evola said. “The entire Walled Lake Schools community is greieving this tragic loss together, and we extend our sincere condolences to all those who knew Jerrod and also those who knew his mom, Karen Smith.”
Evola said grief counselors will be made available for Smith’s soccer teammates who resume practice next week.