2 killed in crash involving wrong-way driver

A crash on US-131 near 103rd Avenue. (April 16, 2014)

OTSEGO, Mich. (WOOD) — Two drivers were killed late Tuesday night in a wrong-way crash on US-131 in Allegan County.

Jeremy Smeltzer, 29, of Portage and 21-year-old Jaryd Ford of Plainwell were killed just before midnight when Smeltzer’s vehicle hit Ford’s in the southbound lanes of the highway, according to Michigan State Police.

Pictured: Jeremy Smeltzer was driving the wrong way on US 131 in Allegan County when he hit and killed another driver and himself. (Undated courtesy photo)
Pictured: Jeremy Smeltzer was driving the wrong way on the highway when he hit and killed another driver and himself. (Undated courtesy photo)

Around 11:55 p.m., police received multiple 911 calls about a pickup truck headed north in the southbound lanes of the highway near D Avenue in Kalamazoo County, MSP officials said.

Shortly after the 911 calls were received, some MSP troopers saw Smeltzer’s pickup headed towards them, driving north on southbound US-131 in Allegan County near M-89. The troopers had their emergency lights and sirens on, but still had to move out of Smeltzer’s way to avoid being hit as he continued to drive the wrong way on the highway, police said.

After Smeltzer passed the troopers, he hit Ford’s car head-on near Otsego, police said. Both vehicles caught fire, which was extinguished by the troopers.

Smeltzer was airlifted to Borgess Hospital where he was pronounced dead, police said. Ford died at the scene.

Megan Covey, the passenger in his car, was transported to Bronson Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. She was listed in good condition at Bronson Methodist Hospital on Wednesday.

Clayton Edney, a truck driver, was among the drivers who saw Smeltzer’s vehicle going the wrong way before the crash. He said he drives at least 1,000 miles a week and has seen many crashes, but has never seen anything like what he saw Late Tuesday.

“All of a sudden, I see headlights coming down the highway,” Edney said. “I flash my brights at him and kind of swerved, and am trying to get him off to the shoulder.”

The driver of the truck was speeding, he said.

“When he went past me, he was probably doing 80 or 90 mph,” Edney said. “When I called 911, I said, ‘He is going at a high rate of speed.’ And I knew it. I knew he was going to kill somebody.”

But he is still wondering why Smeltzer was driving the wrong way.

“Everybody is speculating like he was drunk or on drugs. I’ll tell you what, if he was drunk, he was doing a good job driving,” Edney said. “Maintaining his lane. … I never saw him swerve.”

Police said everyone involved in the wreck was wearing seat belts.

A section of southbound US-131 was shut down while authorities cleared the scene of the wreck, but it has since reopened. The crash remains under investigation.

Ford’s family Wednesday recalled him as a high-spirited young man.They wondered if something more could have been done to prevent the crash.

A candlelight vigil for Ford is set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Red Barn Restaurant in Martin, where Ford graduated from high school in 2011. Funeral arrangements are still pending.

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