Father recounts terror-filled day

Tony DeVecht's world turned upside down when he turned on his cell phone Friday afternoon. He had his phone off while he prepared for a meeting Friday morning, so he didn't know how many people were trying to call him about his daughter's involvement in the horrific crash on Interstate 96.
Becky Vargo
Mar 20, 2012

“My phone just absolutely started blowing up,” he said.

It was about 12:15 p.m. Friday when another girl’s parent finally reached him and told him about the crash.

DeVecht’s 17-year-old daughter, Hannah, and four of her friends were on their way to the girls state semifinal basketball game when the driver, Dani Michaels, 16, apparently lost control of the Honda CRV she was driving. The CRV flipped into the westbound lane and threw three girls from the backseat onto the ground outside.

DeVecht immediately called his wife, Julie, who works at Grand Valley State University. Their 21-year-old son, Aris, is a student there, so DeVecht picked them both up on his way to the hospital in Grand Rapids where the injured girls had been transported.

“I just prayed my heart out the whole way (to the hospital),” DeVecht said. “It was probably the toughest 45 minutes of my life.”

A flight nurse from Aeromed greeted the family when they arrived at the hospital. She’d stayed with Hannah until her family could arrive.

“She also wanted to stay around long enough to tell us, ‘She’s one tough little girl,’” DeVecht said.

The flight nurse told him she had never been at a scene so horrific, but with so much prayer being felt.

“You could really tell it had an effect on her,” he said.

It wasn’t until about 2:15 p.m. that the family was told that all of the girls had survived.

One of the most seriously injured, Brittney Olds, 16, remained in critical but stable condition as of late Monday afternoon, according to an update released by Grand Haven Area Public Schools Superintendent Keith Konarska. Olds remains in the intensive care unit at Spectrum Hospital in a medically induced coma.

Emily Bogner, 16, was also in critical condition. Konarska said her recovery is progressing and she should be moved out of the ICU in a few days.

Madison Case, 17, was still listed in critical condition, but was expected to be moved out of the ICU as early as today.

Dani was released from the hospital on Saturday; and Hannah, who has a large cut on her head and two broken ribs, was released from the hospital on Sunday and is resting at home, her father said.

Before she left the hospital, her nurse helped the family take Hannah to see the other three girls “for the first time since the accident.”

“We’re planning to take Hannah back over there tomorrow for a visit,” he said Monday. “There’s a lot of emotional and physical trauma” being experienced by the girls.

DeVecht said at least three of the girls have good recollection of the accident and that it was awful to hear them talk about it.

“I think all the girls have quite a long road to recovery,” he said. “We’re taking it one day at a time.”

DeVecht said that, in the meantime, the prayers from the community are “pretty awe-inspiring.”

“It’s hard to put into words, but you can feel the energy from the prayer,” he said. “This community is something else. … We are so glad to call it home.”

 

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