No tickets in police car, van crash

No tickets will be issued in the May 7 crash involving a Spring Lake/Ferrysburg police cruiser and a minivan.
Becky Vargo
May 16, 2013

In an opinion released Wednesday, Ottawa County Prosecuting Attorney Ron Frantz recommended that neither driver is cited in the case.

However, the final decision is Spring Lake/Ferrysburg Police Chief Roger DeYoung's to make. The chief said although he believes both drivers were at fault, he agrees with the county prosecutor.

“Due to the circumstances, I can’t solely blame either one of them,” DeYoung said.

Sgt. Curt Theune of the Spring Lake/Ferrysburg Police Department was responding to a different crash on the west side of the village that afternoon when his cruiser collided with the van at the intersection of Savidge Street and Lake Avenue. Theune suffered a hand injury in the crash and has yet to return to work, DeYoung said.

The occupants of the van, Spring Lake resident Kara Hamm and her three children, sought their own treatment for minor injuries.

According to the prosecutor’s decision, Theune was driving west on Savidge Street with the squad car's lights and sirens activated.

“He reduced his speed from in excess of 60 mph to below 30 mph as he entered the intersection,” Frantz wrote. “Ms. Hamm drove into the intersection, having a green light, at approximately 25 mph.”

Frantz noted that all of the other vehicles in that area at the time had stopped for the approaching police car. But Hamm, who was northbound on Lake, said she did not hear or see the approaching police car.

Frantz noted that Hamm had the van's radio on at the time. A large, former grocery store building that hugs the southeast corner of the intersection also obstructed her view.

“One can argue that Officer Theune should have braked more fully, or completely stopped before entering the intersection, not being able to clearly see the northbound Lake Street traffic as he approached,” Frantz wrote in his opinion. “His decision not to do so, but to rely on siren and emergency lights, is a crucial factor and arguably a proximate cause of the collision.”

Also, state statute requires the emergency vehicle's driver to exercise “due regard for the safety of persons using the highway,” Frantz noted.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

Comments

theQuin

I do not understand why Frantz would lay the greater blame on a policeman when a person ignores an emergency vehicle. Perhaps it is right that no tickets should have been issued, but to malign the cop is just wrong. The van driver needs to keep her radio volume
down, and pay more attention to her surroundings!

BTL2A

Where does it say her radio was at an unreasonable volume? It's perfectly safe to have your radio on.

Were other vehicals on lake pulled over? Vehicles on 104 would not be a clue since they would of had a red light.

I think the article does a good job of summing up the accident. Pictures seem to indicate the front of the cruiser hit the side of the van. To me that indicated the van wad in the middle of the intersection when the officer came through.

The building is an obstruction an makes seeing and hearing vehicles very difficult coming from that direction.

I have no issues with any officers, have never heard anything but good about this particular officer. However I think more blame does belong on him. Accidents happen, doing as much driving as they do it's suprising you don't hear of more.

When all the evidence points to one direction it most likely is the case. I think most reasonable thinking would show he was more at fault. No big deal in the long run.

theQuin

Why would the prosecutor mention she had the radio on if it were of no importance?

Wolverine49457

That intersection is a bad one; the former store's walls go almost up to the sidewalk making it difficult to see much past the building when stopped at the light. That being said and knowing the building blocks cars up the road a bit, one should proceed slowly and look twice or thrice before proceeding from south to north.

Hoofhearted

New Law: No radio turned on while driving a car. Also, why isn't there a law requiring drivers to wear a helmet. Everyone wears one while riding a bike. Why should that change when they turn 16?

newspaperlawyer

wait till the civil suit... Were both drivers shown at fault on the accident report???? or only the police officer. Having emergency lights and siren activated does not give you the right of way under Michigan Traffic Law.

GHJames

Why would there be a civil suit? Just because it was a cop involved? Over on the east side of the state they call any accident with a police car "Winning the blue lottery" no matter who is at fault. I really hope that kind of mentality stays over there and we treat our tax dollars with more respect, because that's where the money comes from. Municipalities are self insured and anyexcessive payouts only hurt the rest of us in the form of delayed or cancelled public services. Besides, if it was just you or me running that red light for no good reason (Like rushing to aid an injured stranger) there would not even be a thought of a civil suit in a crash of this severity.

polarize

I'm not sure if its the law or not but it was taught in emergency vehicle driving course for firefighters that while running code that you must stop if there is a red light unless you are absolutely sure the opposing traffic is stopped. Years ago it seemed that everyone wanted to nail firefighters for any accident involving lights and siren.

In any event I'm satisfied that neither driver was cited but hope that the police department will review its procedures for emergency driving to see if there could be room for improvement even if that means requiring limited sight areas to be approached more cautiously.

Having driven through that intersection many times it is impossible to know all traffic is clear until you are already in the process and what can one expect when they have the green light? Apparently too late to react so it would seem that being more proactive going forward is to be mindful of the traffic light color and even then still slowing to observe all directions. I assume the officer did the latter however since he slowed to around 30 mph which is the posted speed limit. The state guideline from what I remember was no more than 10 to 15 mph over the posted speed limit otherwise but still with discretion.

Onedoughboy

This is clearly the police officer's fault. I hope the city in planning on take care of her van. You can't run thru a RED LIGHT with out coming to a stop(30 mph isn't even close), EVEN IF YOUR A POLICE OFFICER, with out expecting to cause another accident. The officer should just own up to this mistake, of causing a second incident. Protect and Serve applies to EVERYONE. Safety comes first. This officer should have some disciplinary action filed against him. And where's his CAMERA footage from the wreaked patrol car???

GHJames

Insurance covers the van and the cop cannot make a public statement because the city will never let him, lest it be used against them in a civil suit. He couldn't apologize or admit fault if he wanted to. What does it matter where the video is? It will show him driving into the side of the van like everyone involved, every witness, and every investigator has said happened. There's no mystery here onedoughboy. Pretty well established the facts.

Onedoughboy

So GHJames, what you are saying is government, at the federal, state and local level, will never tell the truth or admit to any wrong doing, and it doesn't matter either, because nothing should be done about it anyway. And you like it this way, because it hasn't affected you yet? I prefer to see the video anyway. The public has the right to know, and there should be truth and integrity in our elected officials.

GHJames

I hope you didn't hurt yourself with that leap you took there. We live in America where anyone can sue anyone else for any reason. The same reason why you will not get a private company to admit responsibility for an accident is why the city can't. WalMart will not admit the water on their floor from the leak in their roof that you slipped in was something they should have taken care of because it would be used against them in court. As for what happened here, we the public know. The truth is right there for you to read. No UFO's, no gunmen on the grassy knoll, just a simple car accident where the officer is at fault. Stuff happens. BTW, I found out that Spring Lake Police do not have cameras in their cars. I was told they are much more expensive and complex than just sticking a video camera on the dashboard.

Gwen66

Michigan no-fault law means her insurance will take care of the van and all medical bills for anyone in the van including any wage loss, unless she was uninsured and then she isn't entitled to any coverage. I'm sure the officer is following all of the procedures as he is told. There is no lawsuit against the officer or the Village unless someone is seriously injured and then there would be a third-party law suit. She has up to three years to decide to take any action in that type of case. If the officer and the mother are equally at fault, the children could sue either one of them. Either way, the insurance companies step in and take over for everyone.

Rourke

In my opinion, Ottawa County Prosecuting Attorney Ron Frantz (whom from an ethical and non conflict of interest stand poing is the appropriate party to review this accident, given that it involves a Spring Lake/Ferryburg Police Department Officer) made the wrong decision in recommending neither driver be cited. An police officer while responding to an emergency can lawfully enter the intersection against a red light, however the officer must do so with care and caution. Mr. Frantz says so himself that the officer should not have relied on the sirens and lights alone and that was a proimate cause of the crash. Sounds to me like the officer should have been issued a citation for having caused a collision. The driver of the van, while even if the radio didn't allow to hear the sirens, the building at the intersection and the other vehicles stopped at the already red light, would have provented the van driver from seeing the officers lights. Hence the duty of the officer to exercise due regard for the safety of persons using the highway.

Onedoughboy

They should check the airbag control module since it records data leading up to the crash and deployment of the airbags. The officer speed, braking and other info will all be there. Opinions matter not, when the evidence is recorded.

GHJames

Why are you so convinced there is some kind of Roswell, JFK coverup here? At what point do you say "OK, everyone agrees the officer caused the accident so there is no need to take the FBI off the Jessica Heeringa case to reconstruct it." Nobody denies he was the cause. They don't pull those "black boxes" even in fatal crashes. Especially when EVERYONE AGREES WHAT HAPPENED. Do you doubt your own idea of what happened? Then why waste more time and money confirming what everyone knows?

Zeppy

Gwen66 - It seems that you have a working understanding of auto insurance issues. Will the van owner's premiums go up due to this accident? Will this
policy holder also be required to pay their deductable? Like many drivers,
I carry PDPL basic insurance. If I were involved in this accident, I would be looking at an approximate bill of $1,500+. Do you think it's fine and fair that the county prosecutor's decided not to charge the officer who obviously caused this collision?

Zeppy

I failed to mention that most insurance policies require the policy holder (e.g. Van driver) to pay their own deductable when another party in the collision is not found at fault. If the officer had been ticketed, the van's owner would have zero deductable liability. At present, he/she may have to pay $250 to $1,000+ depending on their individual policy. I realize that this is a no-fault State, but those are the mechanics regarding the deductable's payment. Again, the premiums will most likely increase as well due to this claim where fault was not assigned. I don't view this as a "no harm - no foul" situation. There is a large financial burden assigned the van's owner. Conversely, there is a relative financial gain for SL as its officer was not found at fault; thus escaping fines and increased insurance
premiums to the city. Doesn't anyone else see the potential conflict here? Why didn't the Ottawa County prosecutor's office recuse itself and pass this matter to another County for review?

GHJames

As I said before, municipalities are self insured (No premium increase) and the fine for running a red light is around $100. Not a budget buster worthy of a big multi agency conspiracy to defraud some poor lady out of a few thousand dollars. Sometimes things are just that simple. I'm sure the city will do the right thing or we will read about it next week.

HuffmanFamilyof4

wouldn't that be admitting guilt if the city did the right thing

GHJames

Darned if they do, darned if they don't

bunnylou

This is totally ridiculous! Both were in an accident, a no fault state, each giving "their excuse!" They should both get a ticket as the city and county is needing the money!! There should have been tickets last weekend where there were so many "ignorant drivers" or "clueless" that should have come to a stop on the side of the road as emergency vehicles using LIGHTS AND SIRENS were being IGNORED on M-45! No silly obstructions. Just plain old stupidity!! As for Frantz it figures! Not something I'd be proud of! If it was me or you and not a cop, HA!!

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