Here’s a recap of the top 10 news items from the year, as selected by Tribune readers in a poll on our website (grandhaventribune.com):
1. GHHS girls crash on I-96
On March 16, five Grand Haven High School girls were injured in a rollover crash on I-96 near Lowell. Danielle Michaels, Hannah DeVecht, Brittney Olds, Emily Bogner and Madison Case were on their way to watch the school's girls basketball team play in a state semifinal game in East Lansing.
The crash investigation revealed Michaels had been talking on a cell phone prior to losing control of the SUV she was driving.
UPDATE: All of the girls returned to school for their senior year.
In October, Michaels entered a no-contest plea to a charge of moving violation causing serious impairment of body function. In November, she had her license taken away, received probation for at least six months and was ordered to perform 40 hours of community service.
2. GH named Best Secret Beach
In March, the secret was out when Travel and Leisure Magazine named Grand Haven one of the Best Secret Beaches on Earth for 2012.
The Grand Haven location was one of four U.S. destinations on the list with other countries, including Ibo Island in Mozambique and Cirali, a village in the Turkish Mediterranean.
UPDATE: Summer traffic in the area was record-breaking with a 13 percent increase from 2011, said Marci Cisneros, executive director of the Grand Haven Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Cisneros said the normal traffic increase is between 2 to 5 percent each year. She attributed the increase to Grand Haven being on the list and additional social media efforts to reach out to visitors.
3. Baby Bentley shaken
Five-week-old Bentley McIntyre was rushed to North Ottawa Community Hospital and then airlifted to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital on Aug. 24 for injuries he sustained after being shaken by his father, Justin McIntyre, 23.
During a month-long stay at the hospital, doctors determined Bentley had a sub-dural bleeding over the surface of his entire brain. He endured seizures, and will likely be on anti-seizure medication for the rest of his life.
UPDATE: After a one-day bench trial on Dec. 18, Justin McIntyre was convicted for second-degree child abuse. He will be sentenced Jan. 28.
Bentley’s family continues to update the “Prayers for Bentley” page on Facebook.
On Thursday, Bentley’s grandmother, Patti Zalsman, posted: “Sorry we haven’t posted much lately, times are tough ... but Lil B is going great. He now stands (while holding his arms. He puts his whole body weight down on his legs and can stand for a minute or two. ... (He) now weighs 12 pounds. Go Bentley!!!”
4. North Ottawa Dunes Deer Hunt
The deer population at the 500-acre North Ottawa Dunes park led county officials to approve a managed deer hunt there. The hunts were planned to support the state’s efforts to reduce habitat degradation caused by deer overpopulation.
As officials made plans for the Nov. 17-18 and Dec. 8-9 hunts, they received backlash from community members, who said the hunt was dangerous to surrounding residents.
UPDATE: More than 270 hunters applied for the hunting permits, and two groups of 17 were chosen to hunt each of the two weekends.
A total of 16 deer were harvested between the two hunts. Thirteen were taken during the firearms season in November and three more were taken during muzzleloader season in December.
County parks officials attributed the weather’s role in their disappointment for the amount taken.
Parks officials have said they will take what they learned and put it to use in future hunts.
5. Father Bill hugging ends
In May, a time-honored tradition ended at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Grand Haven.
Although the Rev. William Langlois — known as Father Bill — was never accused of any wrongdoing, he announced he would no longer give children hugs during Mass.
Ed Carey, chancellor of the Grand Rapids Catholic Diocese, said it was a recommendation from them after the diocese received several letters and phone calls over a number of years. Carey said the letters and calls regarded the “appearance” of the practice, and there were no allegations of inappropriate touching.
6. GHT father killed near Ravenna
On June 16, John Shumaker and his family were heading home in a two-car caravan from a rained-out softball game when Steven Spencer, who police say was driving under the influence of drugs, hit Shumaker’s car head on.
In the last moments of Shumaker’s life, the Grand Haven Township man threw a protective arm over his daughter, Madison, which likely saved her life.
Amanda Shumaker said she lost her soulmate husband and father of their two children, Madison and Kaitlynn.
“He was great because of his love,” said Jason Whitaker, Shumaker’s cousin.
UPDATE: Spencer’s trial was scheduled for October, but was pushed back to March 12, 2013, because of a backlog at the Michigan State Police Crime Lab.
Spencer is charged with operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs, causing death.
7. Ethnic intimidation
Residents in Spring Lake and Grand Haven experienced ethnic intimidation.
In May, two teens threw eggs at the front windows and door of Chan’s Chinese Restaurant, 228 W. Savidge St. in Spring Lake.
Bob Chan, the restaurant’s owner, told police he also received a call from a blocked number, and the caller used a racial slur and said, “We want you out of there.”
Also in May, a maintenance worker painting a vacant unit at Williamsburg Court Apartments in Grand Haven returned from grabbing supplies to find a racial slur written in red marker on a wall.
Kenneth Ray Schmidt of Grand Haven was accused of writing, “We don’t want n-----s working here” on the apartment’s wall.
In June, a District Court judge found there was enough probable cause to bind the case over to Circuit Court.
UPDATE: The two teens who threw eggs at Chan’s were each charged with a misdemeanor for “malicious destruction of a building.” One of the boys admitted to making racially derogatory phone calls to the restaurant over the course of many months.
Schmidt’s final pre-trial conference is scheduled for Jan. 28 and a two-day jury trial is scheduled for Feb. 20.
8. Hanging Chairs
In September, Grand Haven Township resident Ken David strung metal chairs from trees in front of his home, which is across the street from Peach Plains Elementary School.
David said the chairs mocked Clint Eastwood’s speech during the Republican National Convention when the actor spoke to an empty chair representing President Obama.
David’s chairs caused a stir in the community, leading to a meeting hosted by the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance.
In November, David and his wife, Judy, woke up to the sound of a chair being nailed to the end of their driveway with “4 more years,” “racist pig” and other profanities written on it.
UPDATE: Although police tried lifting fingerprints off the chair to find the person or persons responsible for nailing the chair to the driveway, David said they weren’t able to recover a full set.
David’s chairs remain hung upside-down from the trees. David said the chairs’ position represents a distress the country is going through.
“They’re probably going to be up for a while yet,” he said.
9. Athletic director sues SL schools
On Feb. 23, Spring Lake Athletic Director Cavin Mohrhardt filed a lawsuit in Ottawa County against the school district’s Board of Education.
Mohrhardt requested an appeal after receiving a write-up by Spring Lake High School Principal Mike Gilchrist for a response Mohrhardt made to a parent of a Newaygo basketball player. Although Mohrhardt admitted to using the phrase, “I am not going to kiss your butt,” he requested an appeal before the school board to have the reprimand taken off his permanent employment file.
UPDATE: The lawsuit was dismissed in March after the school board granted Mohrhardt an appeal.
The school board heard Mohrhardt’s appeal, but ultimately upheld the decision.
Mohrhardt is currently the district’s athletic director.
10. Boy dies after swallowing rock
Six-year-old Nikolas Wypa collapsed during field day activities on June 4 at Churchill Elementary School in Norton Shores.
Event volunteers rushed to Wypa and performed CPR until emergency personnel arrived and took the boy to the hospital, but all efforts to revive him failed.
The Norton Shore boy’s family remembered him as a sweet boy and social butterfly, and someone who was “too cute to be mad at.”
“He was the sunshine of our life,” said his grandmother, Carol Bodenberg.
UPDATE: Autopsy results revealed Nikolas ingested a small rock or stone, which became lodged in his larynx.
In July, the Norton Pines Athletic Club hosted a Community Family Fun Night in memory of Nikolas. Proceeds from the event were donated to the Wypa Family Fund.