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Teen loses license for game-day crash

Becky Vargo • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:49 AM

Danielle Michaels, 17, was also put on probation for at least six months and ordered to perform 40 hours of community service when she was sentenced Thursday in Ottawa County Juvenile Court.

Judge Mark Feyen, who said he was following the recommendations of Michaels’ caseworker, also ordered the teen to complete a driver improvement course and counseling. He directed her to write letters of apology to the four friends who were in the vehicle at the time of the crash.

On Oct. 15, Michaels entered a no-contest plea to a charge of moving violation causing a serious impairment of body function.

Michaels was 16 when she was driving four of her friends to the Grand Haven High School girls semifinal game in East Lansing on March 16. They were part of a caravan of school buses and cars that had left Grand Haven High School late in the morning for the early afternoon game.

Just past the Lowell exit on I-96, Michaels lost control of her Honda CRV. It went off the road, hit the end post of a cable guardrail and rolled over several times. The three girls in the backseat were not wearing seat belts and were ejected from the SUV.

All five girls were taken to area hospitals. Michaels was the least seriously injured and returned to school within a couple of days.

The other four girls — Hannah DeVecht, Brittney Olds, Emily Bogner and Madison Case — were more seriously injured. However, all of the girls are back in school for their senior year.

The police investigation of the crash revealed that Michaels had been talking on a cell phone just prior to losing control of the SUV. Witnesses also said the girls were traveling at a high rate of speed on a foggy morning.

At Thursday's sentencing, Michaels sat quietly and gave short, respectful answers when questioned by the judge. Before the judge suspended her driver's license, Michaels said she still has a cell phone, but she did not talk on it while driving.

Michaels’ attorney, R.J. Winter, said everything went as expected.

“It recognized the level of remorse that Dani has had through this whole thing,” Winter said. “It puts Dani in a position where she can process this constructively."

Once the hearing was over, Dani and her parents, Dawn and Dan Michaels, hugged each other and huddled with friends outside the courtroom.

“We believe Dani feels bad about this and takes responsibility," Dan Michaels said. "We continue to pray for all of the girls.”

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