Friend: Wrong-way driver didn’t have license

The scene of a wrong-way crash in the eastbound lanes of I-96 in Marne. (Sept. 5, 2014)

MARNE, Mich. (WOOD) — The wrong-way driver who caused a crash on I-96 in Ottawa County that left his wife dead should not have been driving, a family friend says.

Judy Yonkers said 83-year-old Leslie Laymon had no business driving. He did not have license and he did not have insurance, she said.

“Our family was very disturbed by the fact that he was driving knowing his mental abilities,” Yonkers told 24 Hour News 8.

Yonkers’s son lives next door to Laymon. After a recent crash, Yonkers said, Laymon’s license was revoked. When he tried to get it reinstated, he couldn’t pass the test.

“He took the letter from the doctor and he passed the vision test, but he did not pass the written test. He failed that miserably,” Yonkers said. “He went to his insurance company and said, ‘Can you help me get my license back?’ Once they found out he did not have a license, they canceled all his insurance.”

But Laymon continued to drive, Yonkers said. She said she and her family were concerned.

“I said to him ‘Les, you know you’re not supposed to drive,'” Yonkers recounted. “He says, ‘I’m driving that car in the garage because the police have the report on the blue car and they won’t find me then.’ I says, ‘Les, you cannot drive any car and you don’t have any insurance.’ I said, ‘What if the police caught you? You’d be in jail.'”

But Laymon continued to get behind the wheel. Yonkers said she reached out to police, but dispatchers told her she needed to call back when she saw him driving. She doesn’t live nearby, so she couldn’t.

“I didn’t know what else to do,” she said.

Then, Friday afternoon, Laymon entered I-96 headed west in the eastbound lanes near Marne. His car collided with a vehicle that was driving in the correct direction.

Laymon’s passenger Donna Laymon was killed in the wreck. Laymon and the two people in the other vehicle — Donald and Shirley Vanhoeven, 80 and 79 — were taken to the hospital with serious injuries. All three remained hospitalized Sunday.

“That’s what we were very concerned about, was it ending in tragedy like it did,” Yonkers said.

She says something needs to change regarding what happens when licenses are taken away from those who still want them.

“We need to find a better procedure to avoid tragedies like what happened Friday night,” she said.

Ottawa County investigators say they are working to officially confirm that Laymon’s license was indeed suspended, though an initial investigation shows that is likely the case. If so, he could face serious charges.


Donald Vanhoeven, the son of the couple in the vehicle headed the correct direction on the highway, released this statement Sunday:

“Our family would like to express our appreciation for the outpouring of support that we have received the past few days. We are deeply saddened by the events that took place on Friday afternoon. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the people involved in this tragic accident. We are also concerned about the safety of that stretch of I-96 where the accident took place.”

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