OSHTEMO TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A 21-year-old from Fruitport who was attending Western Michigan University was killed in a hit-and-run crash not far from campus Wednesday night.
“Just senseless loss of my son,” Nicholas Heil’s mother said, “who had a lot going for him. He would have done so well for the world. That’s all he wanted to do was change the world.”
The crash happened shortly before 9:30 p.m. Wednesday in the 5400 block of KL Avenue, near the entrance for 58 West apartments in Oshtemo Township. The Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office said Heil was jogging along the north edge of westbound KL Avenue when he was hit by a white SUV, which drove off.
Firefighters and paramedics treated Heil at the scene, but he died at the hospital.
“Our condolences go out to both these families, the family that has lost the loved one at the same time the family that’s involved with the driver,” said Kalamazoo County Sheriff Fuller. “This is a hard time for them.”
Heil’s mother, Holly Heil, told 24 Hour News 8 over the phone Thursday night that his three siblings are “devastated.”
“They were all extremely close and would do anything for each other,” she said.
She remembered her son as thoughtful and kind.
“He would help his grandparents if they needed anything,” she said. “He would help me. And you didn’t even have to ask him, if I was carrying something up the stairs, he’d say, ‘Here, Mom, let me get that for you.'”
Detectives found the SUV involved in the crash about two hours later in another apartment complex, the sheriff’s office stated in a Thursday afternoon news release.
“Not long after [the accident] some family members of the suspect contacted us and advised us where we needed to go to talk to our suspect driver,” said Fuller.
The driver, a 22-year-old woman from Kalamazoo, was questioned and arrested for failure to render aid, leaving the scene of a deadly crash and suspicion of driving under the influence.
Witnesses say they saw the driver swerving on the road.
She was released from the Kalamazoo County Jail Thursday morning pending investigation results and the outcome of toxicology tests.
The sheriff says this is a common place for accidents. The road curves, there are no sidewalks and there are a lot of people who walk along here.
“When you look at this area you have two apartment complexes and a trailer park very close together that is a heavily traveled portion of the roadway,” he said. “We also recognize there are business just down the street that are known to have heavy foot traffic from these residents.”
Oshtemo Township supervisor Libby Heiny-Cogswell knows it’s a safety concern. She says she has been pushing for more sidewalks for years. When she heard about the death she says her heart sank.
“We have urbanized rapidly and the non-motorized paths are coming later,” said Heiny-Cogswell.
The plan is to put sidewalks on KL Avenue west to 11th Street by 2018. The township has been working on it since 2008. Heiny-Cogswell says the reason the sidewalks aren’t in now is due to lack of funding.
“There has not been a funding source identified to construct these paths,” she said.
The township now requires all new development to include sidewalks, but when these apartments were build that was in place.
–24 Hour News 8’s Marlee Ginter contributed to this report.