GH students seriously injured in I-96 crash

Tribune Staff • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:26 AM

The school's principal said in an e-mail to parents at 9:54 p.m. that the girls are all in stable condition.

"We want to dispel any rumors about the loss of any of our girls," Tracy Wilson said in the e-mail message. "All five girls are stable!"

However, as of 10:45 p.m., a spokeswoman for Spectrum Health DeVos Hospital in Grand Rapids gave the condition for Emily Bogner as critical. The spokeswoman said medical staff were "still evaluating" Danielle Michaels; and would provide no information on the other three girls.

Wilson said in her e-mail that she had just left the Grand Rapids hospital after meeting with all five families. She said the families appreciate the community's support and are asking for their continued prayers.

The crash happened in Kent County's Lowell Township, south of Lowell and just east of the Lowell/Alto exit, at around 11:30 a.m.

Michigan State Police Sgt. Trever Slater said the three girls in the backseat of the Honda sport utility vehicle had not buckled in, and were thrown from the SUV during the crash. The two girls in the front did have their seat belts on, Slater said.

The driver was able to crawl from the wreckage, while the front passenger was pinned in the crashed vehicle.

High school students riding the bus to the game said they saw three girls lying on the road and in the median. The girls wore Grand Haven blue and gold.

The SUV, they said, appeared to have hit the dividing cable and metal fencing, and rolled over into the westbound shoulder of I-96.

Students described the vehicle as "a mangled mess."

"All I can do is really pray that everybody's all right," said Grand Haven senior Colin LaMore, urging others to pray for the girls. "We're all Buccaneers and they're all part of our family."

LaMore, 18, said it appeared as though 20 or 25 people had pulled over to the side of the highway, got out and started helping the girls. He said everyone appeared to be frazzled and stunned.

Moments later, Grand Haven Tribune sports writer Nate Thompson arrived at the scene. He watched as two girls were loaded onto stretchers and into ambulances. Two other ambulances, he understood, had already taken other passengers away.

Thompson said parents and clusters of students stood nearby. One parent said there were five students involved in the single-car crash.

Thompson said it appeared that the SUV skidded through the median, plowed through the metal barrier and landed on its side.

“Obviously, the fog played a role,” Thompson said at a little after noon. “It’s really foggy out.”

Traffic remained backed up for miles as police, fire and other emergency workers investigated the crash and cleared the scene.

Melinda Brink, the assistant superintendent for the Grand Haven school district, said the district has alerted the crisis team, which met at the high school. The team includes counselors and social workers, who determine how best to serve students and help them during this difficult situation.

Students who attended the game arrived back at the high school shortly after 5 p.m. and some met with counselors.

A Facebook page has been created to offer prayers for the girls: http://www.facebook.com/PrayersFor5GrandHavenHighSchoolStudents

Grand Haven, meanwhile, won the game and will play for the Class A state championship Saturday at Michigan State University. The team learned about the crash after a three-point victory over Inkster.

“Our girls instantly burst into tears,” GHHS coach Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer said. “They lost it a little bit, as can be expected.”

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