Driver ‘had no chance’ in wrong-way fatal

A crash on I-96 near Marne. (Courtesy Meghan Vonck via ReportIt - July 10, 2014)

MARNE, Mich. (WOOD) — The woman who drove the wrong way on eastbound I-96 near Marne Thursday night, causing a deadly accident, appears to have made a deliberate decision to drive the wrong way. It was a decision 32-year-old Heather Luke appears to have made behind the wheel of her SUV, a decision that became a deadly one for 52-year-old William Foster.

Ottawa County Sheriff’s Captain Steve Kempker told 24 Hour News 8 that Luke was driving on eastbound I-96, pulled onto the shoulder of the highway, made a U-turn, and started heading westbound.

“We know that as soon as she went back the other way up to about 10 to 11 cars veered out of her way, and when those cars veered out of the way the vehicle driven by the deceased, he basically had no chance,” said Captain Steve Kempker.  ‘All of a sudden that car was there.”

Luke’s SUV hit Foster’s minivan, which then burst into flames.

Kempker said Thursday, they’re still trying to figure out why Luke decided to drive the wrong way.  He said in situations like this one, they look to see if a medical condition was at play, or if drugs or alcohol were involved.  It takes three to four weeks for toxicology reports to come back.

Investigators are also waiting to speak to Luke, who is in critical condition.

She was pinned in her vehicle for an hour before she was extricated Thursday night, and airlifted to a Grand Rapids hospital.

“When I found this out I almost collapsed, just, you know I never usually have tears, I was so heart broken in was walking in circles I couldn’t believe it,” said Heather Luke’s uncle Albert Luke.

Albert Luke had a difficult time expressing how shocked he was about what happened.

“I was just distraught. I just couldn’t believe it, because she just stopped over to see me just two days ago,” said Albert Luke.  He went on to say that the last time he saw her, she was happy about a new job and her new SUV.

He described Heather Luke as a “caring person” who “wouldn’t even run over an animal in the road.”

He planned to visit her in the hospital Friday afternoon, saying, “You gotta be there for family. I don’t know what happened. I don’t always approve of what everybody does, but then again you can’t walk away from your friends and your family.”

Albert Luke also said his niece may not “make it out of this.”

He also expressed how sorry he was for Foster’s family.

“I am really sorry for them.  I even said prayers for them.  I just I don’t know how to express it. I know that they’re going through something more horrible, because he’s already gone,” said Albert Luke.  “I wish there was some comfort I could give to them – I just don’t know how to do it.”

Foster’s death is the second death caused by a wrong-way driver on I-96 in the last two weeks. Kempker said they believe alcohol was involved in the crash from two weeks ago.

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