1 killed in fiery wrong-way crash on US-131

7 people killed in wrong-way crashes on US-131 in West Michigan this year alone

Authorities respond to a wrong-way crash on southbound US-131 in Allegan County (August 14, 2017)


WAYLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A 29-year-old Wayland man was killed in a wrong-way crash on US-131 Sunday night.

The crash happened around 11 p.m. in the southbound lanes of US-131, north of exit 59 for Shelbyville in Wayland Township, not far from Gun Lake Casino.

The Allegan County Sheriff’s Office said the initial call came in about a vehicle parked in the southbound lanes with no lights on. As authorities were heading to the scene, callers reported a fiery head-on crash at the same location.

The first officers arrived to find someone trapped inside a vehicle that was in flames.

“They (the officers) were able to use their fire extinguishers and keep the fire back long enough that they could extract the victim from the vehicle,” Allegan County Sheriff Frank Baker said.

The victim, a 22-year-old from Plainwell, was hospitalized with injuries that are considered not life-threatening.

The sheriff’s department said the driver of the other vehicle, the Wayland man, died from his injuries. Authorities are withholding the names of both drivers while they contact their relatives.

Investigators believe the driver who died was headed the wrong way on southbound US-131 when he hit the vehicle that caught fire.

Investigators are still investigating why the man was driving in the wrong lanes.  It’s also not known when and where he entered the highway.

“Looking at that intersection, it’s just something we’re trying to figure out if that’s where the vehicle ramped onto the freeway or if it came from one of the exists from the south,” Baker said.

It’s unclear which or if any of the vehicles involved in the crash were parked on the highway without lights.

Baker wouldn’t speculate whether alcohol or drugs contributed to the accident.

“That’s one of the things we’re trying to determine at this time,” Baker said. “Obviously, being 11 p.m., there shouldn’t have been a lot of traffic out.”

Officers from the Gun Lake Tribal Police and Wayland Police Department also responded to the crash, which remains under investigation. The freeway was shut down some time, but has since reopened.

The deadly crash was the latest of several wrong-way wrecks on US-131, a major north-south trunk line connecting several West Michigan cities. Including the Sunday crash, seven people have died in wrong-way crashes on the highway this year alone.

In February, two were killed when a wrong-way driver hit a northbound car just south of 28th Street in Wyoming. Another car going north was unable to avoid the crash and was also involved.

Three more people were killed in March because of a wrong-way driver at US-131 and Stadium Drive near Kalamazoo. The driver turned into the exit ramp that leads onto Stadium Drive, entering the highway’s southbound lanes.

Friday, one person was killed when a car driving the wrong way hit a charter bus near Rockford.

***CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the crash happened early Monday morning in Martin Township. We regret this error, which has since been corrected.***