MSP: Driver at fault for wrong-way crash

WAYLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan State Police Wednesday commented on troopers’ response to reports of a wrong-way driver who caused a fatal crash.

“It is a complete and total tragedy and we offer our sympathies to the Ford family and wish it would have turned out different,” MSP Lt. Tom Draves told 24 Hour News 8.

On the night of April 15, 29-year-old Jeremy Smeltzer of Portage was driving north in the southbound lanes of US-131 when his pickup truck crashed into Jaryd Ford’s vehicle near Plainwell. Ford, 21, of Plainwell died at the scene. Smeltzer died at the hospital. Ford’s passenger sustained non-life-threatening injuries.

Two people were killed after a head on crash in Allegan County. April 16, 2015Ford’s family told 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday they wonder whether that trooper could have done something to warn Ford of the danger ahead.

MSP dashcam video obtained by 24 Hour News 8 shows a car identified by family members as Ford’s pulled over on the on-ramp from M-89 to allow a responding trooper to pass. As the trooper entered the highway, he saw the wrong-way vehicle coming and pulled over onto the right shoulder. Ford’s vehicle, which had continued along the on-ramp after the trooper, pulled into the far lane and was struck head-on. The dashcam video shows debris flying and then Ford’s car engulfed in flames.

Wednesday, Lt. Draves limited his comments regarding the crash to a brief list of talking points prepared at MSP’s Lansing headquarters. That may be because of the Ford family’s comment to 24 Hour News 8 that it had hired an attorney. Like many agencies, MSP does not comment on pending litigation.

“The person at fault for this accident is the wrong-way driver,” Draves said.

Draves commented on the fluidity of the situation, saying it was less than two minutes between when the trooper got the call and when the crash happened.

He said that in a wrong-way driver situation, it is officers’ responsibility to first stop the wrong-way driver to avoid a crash.

24 Hour News 8 also asked why another trooper had warned a different driver who had been pulled over for a traffic stop.

“He had already stopped that driver before the broadcast of the wrong-way driver came out, so in the process of terminating that traffic stop, he warned the driver,” Draves said.

In all other questions he referred back to the talking points, saying the crash was under investigation and that several interviews had been conducted.

==Below, watch a clip of the dashcam video, including the aftermath of the crash, via YouTube. Warning: Some may find the video disturbing.==

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