BY MATT TROUTMAN firstname.lastname@example.org
Traverse City Record-Eagle
— KALKASKA — Louis Menard loved playing euchre, hunting, fishing and cheering on the University of Michigan Wolverines.
His father, Louie, said his son was an outgoing person, a 4.0 GPA student on his way to study engineering at U-M. On Sunday, the Grayling High School senior celebrated his 18th birthday.
“He was a good kid. He never got into serious trouble. He always listened to us,” Louie Menard said, choking back tears. “I guess the good do die young.”
Menard, Grayling High School golf coach Jason Potter, 31, and Cassandra Stapleton, 27, of Kalkaska, died in a two-vehicle collision Monday in Kalkaska County that injured six others.
Potter was driving a silver Ford Freestar with six members of the Grayling High School golf team headed to a golf tournament at the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa. Their minivan collided with a white Ford Windstar driven by Rhonda Mitchell, 45, of Kalkaska, at the intersection of County Road 612 and Crawford Lake Road NE in Excelsior Township.
Stapleton was Mitchell’s daughter. Mitchell’s granddaughter, 3, was uninjured in the crash, but still admitted to the hospital.
Michigan State Police Capt. Robert Lesneski said Mason Krey, 18, and Dallas Johnson, 25, were among those in the golf team’s minivan, along with three minors whom police refused to identify.
Three passengers were ejected from the golf team’s minivan, including Menard. One was found pinned under the white Windstar, which was on fire after rolling several times.
Initial police reports after the crash had incorrect information about Potter’s age and the driver of the white Windstar.
Crawford AuSable Schools Superintendent Joe Powers said the accident was “devastating” for the families involved. Five members of the Grayling golf team are receiving treatment in Munson Medical Center, as is Mitchell.
“We have two boys in critical condition,” Powers said. “They are in a medically induced coma. We’re hopeful they will be able to pull out of it. Our other three members have very serious injuries, but we believe they are in stable condition.”
Stapleton graduated from Kalkaska High School in 2003. Mary Scobey was her cheerleading coach in 2002 and remembered Stapleton as a respectful and helpful student.
“She was one of the girls I could depend on to lead the team,” she said. “I think she was a special person. What a sad loss to the community. She had so much to live for.”
Potter was a 1999 Grayling High School graduate and received a degree from Central Michigan University. He worked as a youth specialist at Camp Shawano in Grayling. This was his first season as the golf team’s coach.
“Jason just made people smile,” said Bonnie Piper, his aunt. “Anybody who met him would like him. You can’t say anything bad about him.”
Tanya Shelp of Grayling Country Club said the accident hit particularly hard. Her son is on the golf team but was not in the van and owner’s nephew was injured in the crash.
“The coach included and most of those boys and their parents are members here,” she said. “We’re a pretty close knit club.”
A vigil is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at the Grayling Country Club. More than 600 people responded on Facebook saying they were attending the event.
Lesneski said more time is needed to determine what caused the crash. He said alcohol or drugs are not suspected. Investigators are trying to figure out whether speed was a factor.
“The crash site was shocking to first responders,” he said. “There was fire and entrapment ... Give us an opportunity to do a thorough evaluation of what we have.”