GH girl charged in March crash

Becky Vargo • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:44 AM

The five girls were on their way to a state semifinal basketball game in East Lansing on March 16 when the car Dani Michaels was driving crashed near Lowell.

Michaels, now 17 and a senior at Grand Haven High School, has been charged with “committing a moving violation causing a serious impairment of a body function,” said Paul Lindemuth, assistant juvenile services director for Ottawa County.

Lindemuth said Michaels was originally charged in Kent County on July 31. The case was transferred Aug. 21 to Ottawa County because Michaels lives here, Lindemuth said. The case is being handled in juvenile services because Michaels was 16 at the time of the crash.

The charge is a misdemeanor with a penalty of up to 93 days in jail if the person is charged as an adult, Lindemuth said. Michaels will not face jail time because she is being charged as a juvenile.

A pre-trial conference on Oct. 15 is the next court date for Michaels, Lindemuth said. That's when the attorneys will discuss how the case will be handled. If they agree to a plea, then Michaels will immediately go into the courtroom to enter that plea.

“If she is found responsible, there’s different things the court can do,” Lindemuth said.

First, a report with a recommendation is made by the assigned probation officer. Then the judge makes a decision at a “dispositional hearing.”

Michaels could be sentenced to probation or could be referred for counseling or treatment, Lindemuth said. Probation could include community service, restitution or apologies.

The crash happened when a caravan of school buses and passenger cars were traveling from Grand Haven to the game in East Lansing to support the Grand Haven girls basketball team, which eventually won the state championship.

Michaels was driving a Honda CRV east on I-96 and had just passed the Lowell exit when she apparently became distracted with a call on her cell phone, lost control of the vehicle and went into the median, according to a state police report. The car hit an end post of a section of cable guardrail, then flipped several times and landed on its side in one of the westbound lanes.

The three back-seat passengers — Brittney Olds, Emily Bogner and Madison Case — were not wearing seatbelts and were thrown from the vehicle. Michaels and her front-seat passenger, Hannah DeVecht, were wearing seatbelts and remained in the vehicle when it crashed.

Michaels was the least injured of the group and was able to return to school a couple of days after the crash. The most seriously injured of the girls, Olds, was hospitalized until June 12.

All five girls are now seniors at Grand Haven High school and were in school when classes started Sept. 5, Principal Tracy Wilson said.

A Care Pages update on Olds was posted on Monday by her family:

“Sorry it's been so long between posts. Brittney really doesn't want us to do this anymore. She feels like we're putting her life on public display. Many of you have been able to see Britt these last few months. She's come so far in six months but still has a ways to go. Getting back into the swing of school has proven to be a challenge. Still sorting that out with the staff at GHHS. We are confident that she'll be graduating next spring with her class and moving on to college next fall.”

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