LAKE ANN — A two-vehicle crash along a wind-whipped section of highway in Benzie County's Inland Township claimed the life of a Lake Ann man.
Munson Medical Center personnel pronounced Daniel Beechraft, 41, dead on Thursday at 4:45 p.m., hours after his van crossed the center line on U.S. 31 west of Reynolds Road and into the path of an oncoming semi truck.
Benzie County Sheriff Ted Schendel said Beechraft was heading west, closely following a county road commission plow truck, when investigators believe the heavy snow and wind created disorienting conditions. He said the van and semi truck collided in a glancing head-on crash.
"This occurred because of a whiteout," Schendel said.
Authorities closed a stretch of U.S. 31 for three hours while crews cleared the road way and crash investigators examined the scene. Schendel said Beechraft's passenger, a woman, 34, also was treated for injuries.
The semi truck driver, a Brighton man, 54, was not injured. Schendel said the investigation is ongoing and no citations were issued.
News of Beechraft's death quickly spread through Benzie County and elsewhere in the Grand Traverse region. Businessman Terry Money called Beechraft a family man with deep roots in Bendon, one of Benzie County's oldest communities.
"They're a great family and he'll be missed tremendously," Money said.
Beechraft worked at Ferguson's Lawn Equipment in Traverse City since 1993. Manager David Kelley's voice strained when he said he'd miss Beechraft, a man he described as a loyal worker who stood behind his friends and colleagues.
"If you asked it, it was going to be done. His friendship was the same way," Kelley said.
"We're still trying to soak it all in here," Kelley said. "It's been real difficult ... I'm going to miss him dearly."