Emergency personnel responding to the accident admitted to being a little anxious when they heard the call of a serious injury accident so close to Grand Haven High School, just days after five GHHS juniors were involved in a near-fatal accident near Lowell. The high school is less than a mile down Ferris Street from the accident scene.
And like that accident on Friday, the back-seat passenger in Tuesday’s crash was not wearing a seatbelt, said Sgt. Steve Austin of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department. “She was ejected forward,” he said.
“The first thing that went through my mind (when emergency crews were called) was, ‘Did school get out early today?’” questioned Grand Haven Township Fire Chief Tom Gerencer. “Our community and school has been through so much pain and agony already, I hope this isn’t the same type of scenario as last week.”
Gerencer said all three women were conscious and alert when firefighters arrived shortly after the 11:20 a.m. call, although two of them had potentially serious injuries.
The back-seat passenger was actually sitting between the two women in the front seat when firefighters arrived. Gerencer said it appeared that she had struck the car’s dashboard when she was thrown forward.
“It is surprising to me that she didn’t get ejected,” he said.
Gerencer expressed frustration with the lack of seatbelt use.
“Don’t these kids listen to the news?” he said in reference to Friday’s accident. “Wear your stinking seatbelt.”
The front-seat passenger was pinned in the vehicle and firefighters used a tool to pry open the door to get her out of the car, Gerencer said.
The Aeromed ambulance helicopter had been put on standby, but was not mobilized because extrication was so quick, the fire chief said.
Police said the accident occurred when the car, which was southbound on Lakeshore Drive, started going off the road and the driver over-corrected.
Sgt. Kevin Allman of the Sheriff’s Department said the car was going into the opposite lane, so the driver over-corrected again, and the vehicle went off the road and struck the tree head-on.
Although injuries were serious, Allman said there were no signs of speeding.
“The damage to the vehicle doesn’t show excessive speed,” he said.
Members of a tree-trimming crew just to the north of the scene said the car appeared to be traveling at normal speed before it crashed.
Allman said there was no indication of any reckless driving and alcohol was not a factor.
“She (the driver) just said everything was fine and normal — she just went off the road,” Allman said.
The three women were taken by ambulance to North Ottawa Community Hospital.
The rear-seat passenger had the most severe injuries, police said. Kayleena Faulkner, 19, was treated at NOCH for head and chest injuries, then transferred to Spectrum Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids.
The driver of the car, Spencer Slotman, 20, suffered minor injuries; and the front-seat passenger, Michelle Sage, 19, suffered head and chest injuries, Allman said. Both were treated and released late Tuesday afternoon, NOCH spokeswoman Jennifer VanSkiver said.
To see more photos from the crash scene, click here.