Local Teacher Remembered

Posted at 6:58 PM, May 06, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-06 19:03:21-04

OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. – Students and teachers at Calvin Christian High School were mourning the loss of one of their own on Monday.

Jeff Looman, 55, a band teacher at the school was hit and killed Sunday, May 5 while riding his bike on the Musketawa trails.

Deputies said Looman was approaching an intersection at 24th street when he ran a stop sign and was hit by an oncoming car.

The principal of the school said Looman had been teaching there since 1989.

“It’s really hard for me to even put into words what an impact he has made in our community,” Barbara Engbers, principal of the school said. “Kids would walk on water for Jeff. They loved him, they absolutely loved him.”

Monday kicked off the start of teacher appreciation week. A time where Looman, along with other teachers at the school, would’ve been being honored. Instead, he’s being remembered.

“It changes everything,” Engbers said. “This will be a very difficult week for us. We will be walking with our students through the process of grieving.”

FOX 17 stopped by the Musketawa Trails where Looman was killed and spoke with some of his friends. Jim Vanderwerp is also a bicyclists, he said Looman was an avid bike rider and told FOX 17  that a tragedy like this could happen to anyone.

“We’re always nervous about the cross streets because you feel really safe on the trails, but that’s where the exposure is, when you cross the streets,” Jim Vanderwerp, said.

Vanderwerp also said bicyclists tend to treat stop signs much like yield signs. He said it takes too much time for them to come to a complete stop and then get going again.

Sgt.  Steve Austin of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office said he doesn’t know what else can be done, considering there are warnings and stop signs before every intersection.

He said there has only been one other incident of a person being killed on these trails. That one happened back in 2008. The driver had also failed to stop before going through the intersection.

“It’s very frustrating. It’s frustrating to not know why they didn’t stop,” Austin said.

He cautions bicyclists to be aware of motorists, wear bright colors and come to a stop before crossing intersections.

Grief counselors will be at the school throughout the week to help students and staff deal with the loss.

“He loved students and he loved teaching,” Engbers said. “But, he loved the Lord and taught kids to seek Christ in music.”

Looman leaves behind a wife and three children.