Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 4, 2013

One dead in M-72 crash in Kalkaska County

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — KALKASKA — A Waterford man died in the fourth fatal crash to occur on Kalkaska County roads in recent months.

Luther Thomas, 48, was pronounced dead Monday at the scene of the two-vehicle collision on M-72 east of Baker Road. Kalkaska County Sheriff Dave Israel said Thomas’ Ford Focus crossed the center line east of Baker Road and struck an oncoming Chevrolet Equinox about 9:55 a.m.

Authorities did not immediately identify the female driver of the Equinox because of difficulty contacting her relatives. Israel said she was transported to Munson Medical Center and treated for her injuries.

“She’s not in any real danger,” he said. “There’s no life-threatening injuries.”

The stretch of M-72 east of Kalkaska where the crash occurred was closed for three hours as deputies completed their investigation and cleared the roadway of debris.

Israel said Thomas was driving from Waterford to visit family in the Kalkaska area. He said it was “open and shut” that Thomas crossed the center line, but investigators still don’t know exactly why.

Speed may have been a factor — Israel said motorists on a hilly four-lane stretch of M-72 reported Thomas sped past them and kept drifting near the center line when the road turned into two lanes as if to “peek and see” before passing.

Witnesses also reported Thomas traveled over the speed limit, but Israel said investigators can’t rule out whether a medical issue led to the crash.

An autopsy is scheduled for this week. Bear Lake Township Fire Department and Frederic Township Emergency Medical Services of Crawford County also responded to the crash.

Kalkaska County has seen a string of deadly collisions since April when three died in a devastating two-vehicle collision that involved the Grayling High School golf team.

Stormi Ann Elkins, 15, died early July 5 when a vehicle she was driving left Ingersoll Road on a curve. Timothy Driscoll, 20, and Cheryl Driscoll, 47, both of Livonia, died July 8 when their car ran through a stop sign and was struck by a semi tractor-trailer headed south on U.S. 131.

Israel said speed and road awareness were factors in the recent crashes.

“People always drive too fast. Speed has lot to do with lot of these crashes,” he said. “Also just not paying attention to things around you can get you in trouble.”