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No tickets in police car, van crash

Becky Vargo • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:37 PM

In an opinion released Wednesday, Ottawa County Prosecuting Attorney Ron Frantz recommended that neither driver is cited in the case.

However, the final decision is Spring Lake/Ferrysburg Police Chief Roger DeYoung's to make. The chief said although he believes both drivers were at fault, he agrees with the county prosecutor.

“Due to the circumstances, I can’t solely blame either one of them,” DeYoung said.

Sgt. Curt Theune of the Spring Lake/Ferrysburg Police Department was responding to a different crash on the west side of the village that afternoon when his cruiser collided with the van at the intersection of Savidge Street and Lake Avenue. Theune suffered a hand injury in the crash and has yet to return to work, DeYoung said.

The occupants of the van, Spring Lake resident Kara Hamm and her three children, sought their own treatment for minor injuries.

According to the prosecutor’s decision, Theune was driving west on Savidge Street with the squad car's lights and sirens activated.

“He reduced his speed from in excess of 60 mph to below 30 mph as he entered the intersection,” Frantz wrote. “Ms. Hamm drove into the intersection, having a green light, at approximately 25 mph.”

Frantz noted that all of the other vehicles in that area at the time had stopped for the approaching police car. But Hamm, who was northbound on Lake, said she did not hear or see the approaching police car.

Frantz noted that Hamm had the van's radio on at the time. A large, former grocery store building that hugs the southeast corner of the intersection also obstructed her view.

“One can argue that Officer Theune should have braked more fully, or completely stopped before entering the intersection, not being able to clearly see the northbound Lake Street traffic as he approached,” Frantz wrote in his opinion. “His decision not to do so, but to rely on siren and emergency lights, is a crucial factor and arguably a proximate cause of the collision.”

Also, state statute requires the emergency vehicle's driver to exercise “due regard for the safety of persons using the highway,” Frantz noted.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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