Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 8, 2012

Central Lake crash victim dies


TRAVERSE CITY — Diane Shafer's family hopes their tragedy serves as a warning.

Shafer, a Central Lake school assistant and mother of three young girls, died early Friday at Munson Medical Center. She had been in a coma since a Nov. 23 traffic crash along Alba Highway in Antrim County.

Police believe a suspected drunken driver crossed the center line and struck a van driven by Shafer's husband, Paul Shafer. The Shafer family wants to see the suspect face criminal charges, but they also want to remind people of the potentially horrific results of driving drunk.

"We definitely want accountability," said Donna McGinley, Diane's step-sister. "And we'd like to have everyone take away from this a lesson about drinking and driving."

The suspect, 60, from the Detroit area, hasn't yet been charged. Antrim County Prosecutor Charles Koop said he's awaiting a Michigan State Police traffic crash report. That report could shed more light on whether the suspect indeed crossed the center line.

"Mr. Shafer said he was in his lane, and we believe that, but it would be nice to have some confirmation independent of his statements," he said.

State police previously told the Record-Eagle the suspect's truck appeared to cross the center line and slam head-on into the Shafer's van.

Koop also received the suspect's blood-alcohol test results. He would not detail those results, but said the suspect might be eligible to be charged under Michigan's so-called "super drunk" driving charge. The threshold for that charge is a blood-alcohol content of 0.17 or more, slightly more than twice Michigan's legal limit of 0.08.

The suspect, who is out on bond, could be charged as soon as next week, Koop said. It's possible he could face a felony charge of operating while intoxicated causing death.

Shafer died surrounded by friends and family, McGinley said.

"We always had hope, right up until the end," she said. "But we want her to be at peace, and that's where we feel she is now."

Her death poses a tremendous challenge for family members.

"It's been an emotional wreck for the family," McGinley said. "Telling the girls was very difficult."

A spaghetti dinner and silent auction to benefit the Shafer family was scheduled for Friday night. Anyone who wants to help the family in any way is asked to call Shena Miller at (231) 350-3372.

Visitation will be at Grace Community Church in Central Lake on Monday from 4 to 7 p.m. A funeral service will be at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the church. Burial will be in Ellsworth Cemetery.

Anyone who may have witnessed the crash is asked to contact the Antrim County prosecutor's office at (231) 533-6860.