Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 29, 2013

UPDATE: Three dead in Kalkaska crash


— KALKASKA — Three people were killed and six more injured in a two-vehicle collision involving a minivan occupied by members of the Grayling High School golf team.

The accident occurred at about 11:15 a.m. Monday at the intersection of Crawford Lake Road and County Road 612 in Kalkaska County. The golf team was on their way to a tournament at the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa at the time of the crash.

Michigan State Police Sgt. Don Bailey said three were found dead at the scene and at least three others were ejected from their vehicles. The fatalities were the 27-year-old female driver of one of the two minivans involved in the accident, a 30-year-old who was identified by authorities as a Grayling golf coach, and one of the student athletes.

Names of the victims were not immediately released.

Bailey said a silver Ford Freestar, carrying seven, was heading north on Crawford Lake Road and collided with a white Ford Windstar, carrying three, heading east on County Road 612.

"Based on what we've seen so far, it looks like speed was a factor from both vehicles," he said.

Bailey said two of the occupants in the silver van were found dead at the scene.

He said a 3-year-old was in the white van but the child was not injured in the accident.

Two of the seven survivors were critically injured. The rest were still in triage in local hospitals as of Monday afternoon.

Tom Hardy, Grand Traverse Area Catholic Schools athletic director, said the tournament teed off at 1 p.m.

“Before they teed off all we knew was they weren’t going to be there because there was a car accident,” Hardy said. “We had no idea of the severity.”

Pete Kelbel, head coach of the Harbor Springs High School golf team, said tournament athletes were informed of the accident but "we didn't know any details."

Kelbel said news of the accident caused him to immediately rethink using vans to transport athletes to events instead of school buses. The road was closed for several hours as state police crash investigators worked to reconstruct the accident.

Bernice Gerber lives near the intersection, on County Road 612, and heard the collision. She was outside tending her garden at the time.

"I didn't look but I heard 'thump, thump, thump,'" she said. "The car must have rolled three times. There was smoke rising."

Bailey said the white minivan rolled over several times. Both vehicles came to rest at least 20 feet from the roadway, surrounded by evidence of a violent collision — shoes from occupants could be seen on the grass, debris littered the grass, and fluids from the vehicles streaked across the pavement at the point of collision.

State troopers were first to arrive on the scene. Kalkaska County sheriff's deputies and firefighters from Kalkaska Township and Coldsprings-Excelsior volunteer fire departments assisted.

Crawford AuSable School District officials could not be reached for comment.