Two dead in Grand Haven Township crash

(UPDATED: 3:40 p.m. Sunday) A Grand Haven couple died in a car-versus-truck crash near Mercury Drive and Robbins Road on Saturday night.
Becky Vargo
Jan 26, 2014

The driver of the car, Gayle Burns, 53, was prounounced dead at the scene.

A passenger in her car, Lewis Burns Jr., 55, died early Sunday.

The call for emergency assistance to the Grand Haven Township intersection came in shortly after 8 p.m.

Lewis Burns was pinned inside the car and had to be extricated by Grand Haven Township firefighters. He was taken to North Ottawa Community Hospital, and then transferred to Hackley Hospital in Muskegon, where he was prounounced dead at about 12:40 a.m. Sunday.

The driver of the pickup truck stood behind his damaged vehicle after the crash, cuddling his small dog from the near single digit temperature.

“I’m all right,” he said. “He’s OK now, too,” motioning to the dog.

The man said he was on his way home when the car spun out in front of him. His truck hit the passenger side.

Initial reports were that the truck driver fled the scene, but a witness confirmed he was running after his dog.

Miller was traveling southeast on Mercury Drive in a 2009 Ford F-150. The Burns car was heading into town, in a northwesterly direction on Mercury Drive.

The 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt spun out on the icy road and was broadsided in the passenger side by the truck, said Sgt. Steve Austin of the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department. Witnesses said the truck driver could not avoid the out-of-control car, Austin said.

Those driving in the area at the time said the road conditions were poor, the snow was coming down, and most people were going 30 mph or less.

Just a couple of hours earlier, the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department released a traffic advisory encouraging motorists to re-evaluate any need to travel Saturday night.

“If the need to drive arises, drive at slower speeds and use extreme caution,” said Sgt. Kevin Alman.

Tribune readers were quick to share this tragic news, and offer condolences.

Deanna Campbell said it is a sheet of ice out that way, and she and her family knew it had to be bad when they heard public safety officials respond to the call with sirens blaring.

"It made us cringe," she wrote on Facebook about the knowledge it had to be a bad situation.

Amy Nelson Stringham used to live near the crash site, and said she could always hear the crunch sound of crashes there.

"That intersection is terrible," she shared. "Prayers for those involved."

Heather Wenger Lowe agreed with Amy's assessment of the area. When Lowe was asked by a friend how far the crash was from her, she wrote, "Scary! Not far from us! That's a bad section of road!!"

Carlee Clover has seen her share of crashes at the intersection. Clover lives in a duplex near the corner and ran to the scene with her friend, Madison Weigl, when the crash occurred.

“I heard a big huge loud bang,” Clover said. “I grabbed my phone and ran to the car.”

Clover said there were a man and woman in the car. The woman was bleeding and the man was unconscious.

“There’s been about a good 13 crashes here” since she’s lived there, Clover said. “This is by far the worst because someone died.”

Clover and Weigl wondered if this would finally be enough to get someone to put a traffic light at the corner.



It would be nice if the road commission would at least put sand down at intersections and steep grades.

I'm out right now and roads are bad, people are driving like idiots, and all the plows are doing is polishing the already icy surface. A little bit of sand at intersections, curves, and hills would go a LONG way; save the salt, just put down sand like other states for cripes sake, but as usual, saving a negligible amount of money on payroll and fuel comes before public safety. The plows are already out, actually making the roads worse by polishing the ice; why not simply fill it full of sand and spread it in bad sections of roadway as they drive along? It's a serious question; is there a reason they don't do this?

EDIT: don't get me wrong, I'm not blaming the plow drivers at all, just those in charge at the road commission. And i am definitely not saying that the people involved were not driving good. Nobody knows that except for those who were involved. I am just saying that sand on the ice would have helped with traction and maybe, just maybe, would have kept the car from spinning out.

EDIT 2: and people need to start driving right for conditions. I used to race cars (including road/rally) way back when, so I know how to recover from understeer, oversteer, and a bunch of other issues, but even with that knowledge, I drive slow, and am VERY cautious on the roadways. Sadly, I cannot say the same for others. The past few times I have went out in snow, I have been tailgated, honked at, and dangerously passed because I was driving right for the conditions. I have nearly been rear-ended many times when I stop at a light or stop sign and the person behind me comes flying up, slamming on his/her brakes and realizing they have no traction; it often ends with their rear end sliding out, stopping just short of me. Is it just me, or are people driving much worse this year than usual?


Agree 100% You can see your reflection in the surface of the street in front of my house. At least leave alittle snow on the street for traction, if you can't afford the sand!


How many deaths have to happen on Mercury drive before something changes? Prayers to this family... my heart goes out to them. I have been driving that area 25 plus years and esp when it rains or snows Mercury has always been a white knuckle drive during those roads condition.


Who all of you were at the scene tonight? I was, sanding the road wouldn't have helped as there was some snow already on the road and a couple icy spots showing through. The accident happened when the car spun in front of the truck.

Prayers sent out the driver of the truck and the family who lost a loved one.


Was literally on this corner 10 minutes prior to this I got to wesco and there was a cop going only about 30 mph with his lights on around 8:20 ish prayers going to the family. And to Ottawa county and grand haven township get your act together!!! Get your trucks out BEFORE it causes fatalities. Sincerely young mom of two.


People of extreme ignorance here? Just take one second to think of the number of intersections in grand haven or even the area? Might need an entire beach worth to sand up to you're expectations. And FYI this sand is mixed with salt to help it stick to the road. When it is this cold and blowing the salt cannot physically stick as it's too cold to melt the Ice/snow. Then not sticking plus traffic driving over the intersection that WAS sanded as stated above just scatters it.
Just stay off the damn road. And don't open your ignorant mouth because you think you know better. Blame lies on no one that's why they are called accidents. My condolences to any friends and family as I live just up the road and heard the commotion.

Karingh took the words right out of my mouth


Seriously every time there is an accident people always say its that stretch of road. It was an accident it could have been any number of things but the roads are crappy it was bound to happen its just too bad someone was lost & someone seriously injured. I feel for the families. Don't blame Mercury Dr. There are not that many accidents considering the amount of traffic during high traffic times. You only hear of accidents occasionally & not during peak times. Most accidents are human error why do people always blame government.

NTH_Grand Haven

"Get your trucks out"............... Really? Our back roads look great. I drove this same road 4-5 times today. It was perfectly fine to drive on IF YOU DROVE FOR THE CONDITIONS!!! If however you decided you needed to get home a minute faster you would very quickly slide out.

Its pretty damn simple. Slow the hell down, and if the car in ahead of you is going slow...... deal with it. They know it's ice and can't drive any faster. Get over yourself. The reason people get injured and die on our back roads is because people can't figure out how to drive.

Even in the summer people seem to think it is ok to pass people in the median..... and then in the winter it's ok to tailgate and/or drive 55........

It's usually these people ditched and wrecked, but today it seems they did alot worse.

In all my years here I have NEVER ditched my car or came close to getting in a accident or crash....... why? Slow the hell down.... its pretty simple.


if you only knew the driver and the passenger of the car… we just lost 2 of our dear, dear friends. they were both extremely good and cautious drivers with more drive time than most people commenting on here due to their beautiful volunteer work in the community. now, because of a tragic accident, they are no longer here. a few on this thread have posted positive messages, asking for and giving prayers and condolences, which is most kind and appreciated. for the rest who want to preach "slow down, bleh, blah, blah" please think before you speak. this was a tragic accident. a son just lost both of his parents… brothers and sisters lost their siblings… countless friends lost true companions… time and unforeseen occurrence befall us all. many, many prayers and hugs and much love to their son and all of their family and friends. until we see them again…


It's an all too common scene with this literary life threatening weather we deal with in west Michigan this time of year. My thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of this poor person. I think it is important for all of us to remember to take our time when we are forced to travel on days like today, it's better to arrive late than to rush and risk getting into trouble. Recently my vehicle broke down late at night on one if the worst days of the year, temperature was 9 degrees and we had about a foot of snow, it was a brutal wake up call on how we should all be prepared any time we travel this time of year. Remembering to bring cold weather gear, a good jacket, gloves & hat, a shovel, and a fully charged cell phone! Better to have the stuff and not need it than to not have it and need it! Simple things can make all the difference, also try and keep a decent amount of gas in your tank incase you get stuck. Everyone please be safe, take your time, make it home to your family, and be a RESPECTFUL driver!

Vast Right Wing...

People need to drive for conditions. Left my home near the crash, had a vehicle tailgating me all the way to Beechtree - why?

Probably, because the driver didn't want to be behind someone driving less than the speed limit. Common sense does not apply for way too many people, and they will kill someone with their carelessness because they can not bear to drive slower than the speed limit (drive for conditions).


The only real bad thing about Mercury Drive is the people who drive too fast for conditions on it. Or who use the turn lane as a passing lane. I skated across it today to get my mail. Pure ice, and salt or sand probably wouldn't help much with the new snow constantly falling. Many (mainly SUV's) racing by me at speeds too fast to ever be able to stop or maintain control at all times. BTW, to say an accident is 'no one's fault that's why they call it an accident' is pure ignorance. Sympathies to all involved.
Do I sense the next poll question?


My very good friend was killed tonight in this accident...her husband was removed from life support about 1/2 hr ago...Her father died only less than two mo. ago...She was a careful, cautious driver...unfortunately, the road conditions were horrible...I personally know she & her husband had "valid" reasons for being "on the road" ...I hope & pray that their son doesn't read some of the thoughtless & uncaring remarks made here tonight...We should not only "think" before we speak but also before we text...My love to her son & family...


Oh prayers to you and their family on your loss.....people are if you dont read these posts anymore while you grieve.

The Cat Lady

The woman who died tonight was my best friend, her husband was driving and I just wanted everyone to know that he was a very safe driver and that they were out for a very good reason. All the kind thoughts are appreciated.
I should not have said who was driving because I didn't know who was.


My condolences to this family in this very hard time I will definitely be praying for them


This was my brother and his wife that were both killed. Please refrain from posting painful comments. We are have lost 2 family
Terrible and tragic shock.
They have a son that must go through losing his parents. My nephew and our family would request prayers.


we will be keeping your family in our thoughts and prayers.we can't begin to tell you how sorry we are for your loss. we knew them well and our hearts just ache for you all…


many many prayers coming you way


so very sorry for your loss....MANY prayers going out to your family


My thoughts and Prayers go out to family and friends of those involved. What a terrible and tragic thing to happen. Shame on any of you who care to cast blame on those involved, the road commission, Mercury Dr, etc. You probably were not there, and if you were you probably are not trained investigators who can determine the cause. As said above, it's called an accident for a reason! Blaming someone isn't going to accomplish anything or reverse this tragic event. I cannot believe someone would dare leave such hurtful comments for loved ones of these to victims to read.


We turned onto Mercury Dr. from 144th, heading into town around 7:30 PM. Just before the Wesco station, the road became pure ice and it was, all the way onto Waverly. It was horrible driving. We crept along at a slow speed. It was no wonder there was a fatality on Mercury in those conditions. It was bound to happen. I'm surprised I didn't see more spin outs and accidents, but there was another less serious one near 152nd, sheriff's deputy arriving just as we passed. The conditions were as bad as I've seen them anywhere, the ice was thick, and shiney. I could have ice skated home. My thoughts and good energy go out the family and friends of those killed.


My prayers to the family and friends.

Why is it so imperative that everyone comment so quickly on something they probably don't know anything about. Typically it is those ready to blame or complain. Your opinion won't change any of God's plans. Just like tailgaters, have some patience and respect before slamming on your opinion...


I am honestly in tears right now. I never met either person who passed away. It just makes me sad to think about how fragile our lives really our. My condolences go out to the family. I got out of work at midnight knowing the news and the fact I had to drive home right past where this accident happened. I was driving at about 35 mph and low and behold some moron was riding my tail. I couldnt believe I felt like calling the police, but I just kept two hands on the wheel.


I've said it before and I'll say it again - Comments on every news sight should not be read by grieving people. You are reading a discussion between people who never knew and likely never will care about the people involved. Did I mention it's all anonymous? People sensative to the subject need to stay away from the comments and concentrate on what's important. If something ever happened to someone I love, I'll read the hard copy or watch it on TV.


Im not sure if this happened right at the intersection to turn onto robbins road or not, since they dont really say. but about 20-25mins prior to the accident, I was heading into town on mercury & turned left at robbins & there was so much snow where robbins & mercury meet, I almost got stuck. so I know the roads werent looking that great. now, I am a cautious driver in the winter (Im not worried about my driving, its everyone else on the road Im concerned about) I was driving 40 on mercury & the snow was coming down pretty good but there wasnt too many people out driving & before I got into the turn lane to go onto robbins road, I slowed way down. I do agree with people needing to be more cautious while driving, either we have people who dont care & act like theres no snow on the ground or we have way too cautious of people on the road, both of which can cause accidents.
Nobody on here was in either of those cars, so you cant jump to conclusions & say they were driving slow & cautious or they were driving fast. We will never know, either way its still sad & prayers go out to everyones families of those involved.


Don't you people who claim to know these folks who were killed have anything better you could be doing with your time right now then coming on here and ranting about all the terrible comments with your self-righteous indignation? Personally I don't see a single comment here saying anything bad about the people involved. It's tragic and I'm sure, my self included, that we all feel sick about it. The comments are born to some degree on fustration with the situation, they are not directed at anyONE in particular.

My god...if something like this happened to my Brother-in-law or any other relative the LAST PLACE I'd be spending those initial hours after receiving the bad news would be HERE, complaining about some random comments made by people who DON'T know them, but in most cases, comment to feel connected in some way to the tragedy.

As far as their son reading this comment section...Really? how stupid are you? Do you really think that he's going to have the time, or interest in the next week or so to take the time to read a stupid comment section in the local rag? It probably won't even occur to him to read this ever, UNLESS you're stupid enough to tell him about it......

My god, again. I don't recall seeing any of your names ragging about the comments on the terrible accident the other day on, are you only self-righteous when it's people you know and if you don't know them it's no big deal? Hypocritical much?

Your comments on here in response to other comments makes you part of the problem too, you're just adding fuel to the fire and more responses follow. Like this one......AGAIN, this is a comment forum, for comments. If you don't think you'll like what's said THEN DON'T READ THEM. simple eh? Do you go into a bar on Saturday night and yell at people for drinking?? Get a freakin' clue!

I'd suggest right now that you go find something constructive to do for the family in their hour of need, if they really are your friends and don't waste anymore time here. If they were your friends then act like it and go support them, stay out of places you don't need to be right now.

Tri-cities realist

Well said LTA, even if it may sound harsh to those you are grieving, I agree 100%. My condolences to all those involved.


It's icy bee careful


Post a Comment

Log in to your account to post comments here and on other stories, galleries and polls. Share your thoughts and reply to comments posted by others. Don't have an account on Create a new account today to get started.