Traverse City Record-Eagle

October 11, 2012

Injury crashes bring charges

BY ART BUKOWSKI
abukowski@record-eagle.com

TRAVERSE CITY — James Landefeld was bedridden for more than a month after both his ankles were broken in a head-on traffic crash.

He's in a wheelchair now, and hopes to soon transition to a walker with the help of thrice-weekly physical therapy sessions. His wife, Alana, suffered a broken arm in the same July crash along M-113 in Fife Lake Township. She's also in physical therapy.

"It's changed our lives completely," said Landefeld, 65, who lives in Ottawa County. "We just thank the good Lord we're alive, with the extent of the crash, and we're just taking it one day at a time."

Brian Mayo Jr., 22, of Kingsley, is charged with two counts of operating while intoxicated causing serious injury for causing the crash that injured the Landefelds, who were in the area to visit family.

He's one of two people in recent weeks to face that charge in Grand Traverse County. Justin J. Cunningham, 27, of Montcalm County, faces that count, plus counts of second-offense drunken driving, second-offense operating with a suspended license and possession of marijuana.

Both face up to five years in prison if convicted. A driver's crash risk "exponentially increases" when he or she decides to drive drunk, officials said, and it's especially unfortunate when that decision results in injuries to other motorists.

"It's a serious offense, and there needs to be steep consequences," Grand Traverse Undersheriff Nate Alger said.

Grand Traverse sheriff's officials said Mayo completely crossed the center line and struck the Landefelds' vehicle on July 20. Deputies said Mayo, who was badly injured in the crash, registered a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 — Michigan's legal limit — when his blood was drawn at Munson Medical Center after the crash.

Landefeld hopes criminal charges will provide a life lesson for Mayo.

"We're glad he's alive," he said. "But we're also glad he's going to do some thinking about drinking and driving again."

Cunningham was involved in an incident along South Airport Road in Garfield Township on Sept. 30. He pulled onto the road in front of Traverse City resident Miles Barnes, 62, who was riding a moped.

The two vehicles didn't collide, but Barnes had to slam on his brakes to barely avoid Cunningham's vehicle, deputies said. He was thrown from his moped and suffered a dislocated thumb and two hip fractures.

Cunningham drove off, but deputies armed with a vehicle description located him. He didn't go back to the scene because "he was scared due to the fact that he did not have a license and that he believed he might be too drunk to be driving a car," a police report said.

Tests revealed a blood-alcohol content of 0.13, a police report said. The deputy said he found a small amount of marijuana in Cunningham's vehicle.

Mayo hadn't been arrested as of Wednesday. Cunningham was arrested and arraigned Wednesday.