TRAVERSE CITY — Brian “Bear” Reicha hasn’t harbored bad feelings after a collision with a plow truck this winter that left him seriously injured.
Reicha, a veteran driver with Ward Eaton Towing, crested a hill on Peninsula Township’s Center Road on a snowy January day and saw a plow truck backing up in front of him. He didn’t have enough time to stop, so he swerved into a ditch and side-swiped the plow near the McKinley Road intersection.
He wound up with a fractured neck, a severely broken leg and a ticket for driving too fast for conditions. He recently returned home from the hospital.
“He hasn’t had anything negative to say about the whole thing. He said he’s just glad he was the only one who got hurt,” his brother, Greg Reicha, said.
That crash was one of five this year involving a Grand Traverse County Road Commission vehicle that resulted in injuries, including two deaths. Records show injury crashes increased this year from one incident in 2012. Prior to that, the last occurred in 2008.
The road commission driver was not at fault in each case, records indicate.
In February, a driver failed to yield at a stop sign at the Sparling and Summit City Road intersection in Kingsley and crashed into a Grand Traverse County plow truck. The driver, David Pipoly, and his daughter, Christa, died.
Tragedy wasn’t unique to Grand Traverse County this winter. The weekend of the Kingsley crash, a Petoskey woman died after the vehicle she was riding in failed to stop at a stop sign and collided with a Charlevoix County plow truck.
Grand Traverse County Road Commission manager Jim Cook said serious crashes are “a pretty horrible experience” for county drivers, regardless of who’s to blame for crashes. Counselors were made available for road commission staff following the Kingsley fatalities.
“That’s something you never, ever want to have to be involved in, even if it wasn’t your fault. I’m sure that’s a horrible memory that isn’t going to go away,” Cook said.
There have been no road commission vehicle crashes resulting in injuries over the past five years in Benzie, Kalkaska, Leelanau and Antrim counties, according to information provided by the respective commissions.
Leelanau County drivers were involved in three fender benders, but there hasn’t been an injury crash since the 1970s or ‘80s, said manager Herb Cradduck. He considers his workforce fortunate.
“As many miles as we’re out there in the winter time, you got that many trucks, you’re bound to get in an accident,” Cradduck said.
Weather conditions could be partly to blame for Grand Traverse County’s increase in collisions, Cook said.
“It’s been more of a typical winter than we’ve had in the last three years. Most of those accidents occurred either in the early morning or at night,” he said.
Family said Reicha is walking short distances again and looks forward to returning to work, though doctors haven’t said when that will be. Friends have organized a benefit auction and dinner at the Masonic Lodge in Acme on April 13. Contact Tracey Stites at email@example.com for more information.