Two Church Vans Roll Over Miles Apart on US-131

Posted at 3:50 PM, Feb 16, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-17 06:36:36-05

KENT COUNTY, Mich. (Feb. 16, 2014) – Within the course of an hour, two vans belonging to two West Michigan Wellspring Churches got into separate rollover accidents that eerily mirror each other, the Kent County Sheriff’s Department says.

The crashes occurred between 9 and 10 a.m. Sunday morning on US-131, just seven miles apart.

Deputies say the first van, from the Wellspring Church on Wealthy Street in Grand Rapids, was carrying six people when it rolled over at US-131 southbound near Ann Street. First responders freed at least three victims who were pinned inside the vehicle. Michigan State Police says three people in that van were transported to Butterworth Hospital; they were later released with minor injuries. Troopers say the 60-year-old male driver lost control and the van flipped into the median. Troopers say early morning snow and driving too fast for the conditions led to this crash.

Then, a short time later, another van, this one from the Wellspring Church in Jenison, was carrying 11 people when the driver lost control and rolled into a ditch along the US-131 southbound median at Post Drive, Kent County officials say. T two of the eight younger passengers were thrown from the van, and five others were taken to DeVos Children’s Hospital and Spectrum Butterworth Hospital.

According to the Wellspring Community Church of Jenison, four of the five students were released with minor injuries from the hospitals, while one student who had surgery for facial cuts and is in stable condition is expected to be released on Monday. This church says the van was carrying a group of middle school students and youth leaders back from a retreat at Spring Hill Camp in Evart.

Wellspring Church officials at Wealthy Street would not go on camera, but said their vans regularly shuttle people to church. They said some of the people involved in these accidents still attended the morning service after the crashes.

Meanwhile, it wasn’t just major accidents backing up traffic Sunday.  A number of slide-offs were reported because of drivers gawking at other crashes.

“Today it’s obviously the road conditions,” said Michigan State Police Trooper David Ybarra. “We can see that it’s snowing, the roads are wet, the temperature has been changing, from freezing to warmer weather. That’s causing a lot of the issues.”

Police say they’ve repeated themselves throughout this wild winter season but say again, if you get into an accident, stay inside your car, call 911, and wait for help.

“The accident I’m on currently is because … there was an accident ahead of them, people were slowing down, and people were just too close to each other. With not enough proper distance between cars, they end up piling up,” added Trooper Ybarra.

The Kent County Sheriff’s Department said the rollover accidents are under investigation but all of those who were in the crash are expected to survive.