West Michigan Teen Dies in Crash, Father Speaks Out About Texting and Driving

Posted at 6:23 PM, Jun 19, 2014
and last updated 2014-06-19 23:19:10-04

OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. (June 6, 2014) – Less than 24 hours after a West Michigan teenager died in a crash, his father spoke out about the dangers of texting and driving.

Jacob Freybler, 17, was driving south on 8th Avenue near Lincoln Street in Ottawa County when his car crossed the center line and hit an SUV head-on.

Freybler died at the scene. It’s the result, sheriff’s deputies say, of texting and driving.

“They found the cellphone in his lap,” Jim Freybler, the victim’s father said. “I was hurt because he knows better. And now, I’m really hurt.

Jim Freybler said the crash happened while his son was driving back home from visiting his girlfriend. When his son missed curfew, he said, he didn’t worry initially because that’s something that happened on occasion. But, as time went on, with each passing minute, the ordinary turned unfamiliar.

“I called him three times…he didn’t answer,” Jim Freybler said. “Lights come in the driveway and I’m like, ‘yeah you’re home…and you’re going to get in trouble.’But, it was the Ottawa County sheriff with the crisis team.”

Jacob, who was an avid fisherman and a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, aspired to become a fireman. It’s a dream that will never come true.

“I can’t….I don’t want to bury my son,” Jim Freybler said weeping. “But, I have to.”

Freybler said the thing he’ll miss most about his son is the way he would apologize when he knew he did something wrong.

“He knew how to grab into your heart and you could feel he was sorry,” Freybler said

Jacob, who was born maturely on Christmas Eve, his parents said he was fighter since day one.

“He has one kidney and he’s been a fighter all his life and that’s why got in Tae Kwon Do to help him protect himself with that. Anything he’s had to do he’s had to fight for.”

Freybler said once his kids were older he and his wife spoke to them about the dangers of texting and driving. With words only touching the surface of many people’s thoughts, they’re hoping their story will grab ahold of others and stay with them while out on the road.

“Phones are great to talk to your friends at school, to talk to your friends at a football games, or from home so mom and dad can’t be around,” Freybler said. “In the car is no place when you’re driving to be texting or on that phone. Pull over or get in the parking lot, ya know, be safe with it. Otherwise, you’re going to bury them,” Freybler said while holding a picture of his son.

A vigil will be held at the Wendy’s on Alpine Avenue where Jacob worked Thursday night at 8 p.m.