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Investigation sheds light on crash

Becky Vargo • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:32 AM

Michigan State Police finalized its investigative crash report earlier this week and detailed the events that led up to and immediately after the crash.

Among the report findings:

• The driver of the Honda CR-V, Dani Michaels, 16, had been talking on her cell phone with her mother just prior to the 11:30 a.m. crash. Cell phone records indicate that Michaels received a call at 11:25 a.m. In an interview at the hospital, the driver told police she looked down to turn off her phone, and then looked up and saw a vehicle directly in front of her that she thought she was going to hit. She swerved to avoid hitting the vehicle, lost control and went off the road.

• Police found a partially consumed bottle of pomegranate vodka in the back of the Honda. It remained cold to the touch, although it was warm that day. Michaels, the driver of the vehicle, apparently had not consumed any of it as a test showed zero alcohol in her system shortly after the crash. She told police she knew the bottle was in the vehicle, but didn’t know who brought it.

• The roads were dry at the time. The air temperature was 75 degrees and a layer of fog reduced visibility to about a quarter of a mile. Police said the weather was not a factor in the crash.

• Witnesses said Michaels drove at a high rate of speed and the girls in the back seat waved their arms out the window as they drove by the buses full of fellow Grand Haven students who were also on their way to the girls’ basketball semifinal game in East Lansing. One witness said she was in the right lane driving at about 80 mph when the CR-V drove past her. She estimated the girls had to be traveling in excess of 90 mph. Another witness said “the vehicle was driving carelessly for a period of time before the crash occurred. The young girls in the back seat were hanging out the windows yelling at the kids on the buses in the right lane and moving around in the vehicle from side to side.”

A caravan of cars and buses drove eastbound on Interstate 96 that morning, headed to the basketball game. The crash occurred just east of the Lowell exit.

Police at the scene the day of the accident said when the sport utility vehicle went off the road, it turned sideways, hit the end post of a cable guardrail and rolled over multiple times. The CR-V landed on its passenger side in the median just off the westbound lanes.

The three back-seat passengers — Brittney Olds, then 16; Emily Bogner, 16; and Maddie Case, 17 — did not wear seatbelts and the force of the crash threw them from the SUV. Olds landed in a westbound lane of I-96, while Bogner and Case came to rest in the grassy median.

The driver, Michaels, and the front-seat passenger, Hannah DeVecht, 17, wore seatbelts, police said. Michaels crawled out of the vehicle, but DeVecht remained pinned inside until emergency workers freed her from the wreckage.

The girls, all juniors at Grand Haven High School, were taken by ambulance to hospitals in Grand Rapids.

The first emergency personnel on the scene initially thought they had a fatal accident, but later reported that Olds — who later had to be placed into a medically induced coma — was moving and talking.

The report was obtained by the Grand Haven Tribune by a Freedom of Information Act request, and police have forwarded it to the Kent County prosecutor for consideration of charges.

Read the full police report by clicking on the PDF below:

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