Traffic stop before deadly crash on US-131

Family says William Wilson-Wade, 24, died Saturday after crash near Grand Rapids

William Wilson-Wade
An undated photo of William Wilson-Wade courtesy his family.


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The chain of events that culminated in a fatal crash on US-131 north of Grand Rapids late Friday night started with a police traffic stop.

Family members of 24-year-old William Wilson-Wade told 24 Hour News 8 on Sunday that he died as a result of the wreck. They say they have questions about what went wrong the night of the crash.

Wilson-Wade’s girlfriend, Danielle Ziel, said she and her boyfriend had just sat down to watch a movie on Friday night when he got a call from a friend.

“‘I have a problem,'” Ziel said the friend told Wilson-Wade. “‘I need you to come help me and drive my car back to where I’m staying.'”

Ziel said her boyfriend of nearly four years would always help his friends. So the two of them drove to northbound US-131 near West River Drive in Plainfield Township. There, a Michigan State Police trooper had pulled the friend over on the side of the highway.

Sunday, the commander of MSP’s Rockford Post said he did not know why Wilson-Wade’s friend had been pulled over. But 1st Lt. Chris McIntire confirmed that sometimes during traffic stops, drivers are given the opportunity to call a friend to drive them home — and he said that’s what happened in this case.

“Will got out and walked to Mike’s (the friend’s) car, got in the driver’s side and they just sat there,” Ziel recalled. “And I think the cop came up and talked to them, and then I couldn’t really see because it was dark and the lights were bright. And then the cop drove off, drove down the highway, turned his lights off. I don’t know where he went.”

She said Wilson-Wade and his friend sat in the car for a short time. She said she thinks the friend may have been instructing Wilson-Wade how to drive a manual transmission car. Eventually, she watched from behind as they pulled onto the highway. She said they made it about 10 feet before stalling out.

She decided to drive ahead toward the exit to give him space. Once off the highway, she stopped and waited 10 to 15 minutes before getting worried.

“I called Will’s phone because I didn’t know Mike’s and Mike answered and he goes, ‘We were in a horrible accident. Will’s in shock. I gotta go,'” Ziel said.

MSP says the car had not been able to accelerate and was struck from behind by another vehicle.

Wilson-Wade was taken to the hospital, where family members said he died Saturday from his injuries.

Crews respond to a crash on northbound US-131, south of West River Drive in Plainfield Township (March 25, 2017).

“I was able to say my goodbyes to him before they moved him from the room last night,” Ziel told 24 Hour News 8 on Sunday. “I was able to talk to him have some alone time. I thanked him for being such a blessing in my life.”

Wilson-Wade’s mother said her son was a graduate of Forest Hills Central High School and went to college at Central Michigan University. He recently got a job at AT&T that he loved.

“This is the nicest young man, one of the nicest young men you ever want to meet,” Phyllis Wilson-Wade said. “He’s so caring. So caring, so caring. He would do anything for you.”

She said her son was an angel who never did drugs and was never in trouble.

She said police haven’t talked to her about the crash.

“I need all answers. I need every piece to the puzzle. This is my son. I want every piece to the puzzle, and I want it as soon as possible so that we can receive closure,” she said.

When MSP initially released information on the crash, the traffic stop was not mentioned.

24 Hour News 8 sent a message to MSP asking whether it is protocol to stay on the scene of a traffic stop until the trooper sees the driver merge safely back into traffic, but had not heard back as of Sunday night.

Troopers said neither drugs nor alcohol appeared to be factors in the crash. Neither Wilson-Wade’s passenger nor the driver of the other vehicle were hurt.