Driver gets probation in crash that killed Hudsonville teen

Posted at 10:26 AM, Dec 22, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-23 01:31:01-05

HUDSONVILLE, Mich. – A man who pleaded guilty in the crash that killed 13-year-old David Talsma was sentenced Tuesday to 18 months of probation.

Travis Fox of Crown Point, Ind., also was ordered to pay more than $3,300 in court costs and fines in connection with the Aug. 3 crash, according to Ottawa County District Court.

Fox told Ottawa County deputies that he was eating a sandwich while driving on Interstate 196 near Hudsonville when he looked down at his GPS and then hit the car carrying Talsma. Talsma's sister was driving that vehicle and was stopped in traffic while in a construction zone.

Fox pleaded guilty Nov. 17 to a charge of moving violation causing death.

Alexis Westenbroek was at Fox's sentencing Tuesday. She was one of nine injured in the crash.

Westenbroek told FOX 17 she believes Fox got the punishment he deserved and hoped his actions would change people's minds about distracted driving.

"I was crying a lot, I didn't think it would hit me as hard as it did," Westenbroek said. "(Talsma's) dad, forgiving Travis Fox that way and giving him a bracelet to show that he forgives him was really touching."

She said she still finds it hard to forgive Fox for what he did.

"I want to forgive him, but right now it's still kind of hard," Westenbroek said.

She told FOX 17 Tuesday that she remembers the crash scene as clear as day.

"I thought I might lose my mom. It was very, very scary for me," Westenbroek said. "As soon as the car stopped she went unconscious and started having a seizure, so I got out of the car and screamed for someone to help her."

We're told that Westenbroek's mother, Tammy, now suffers with a permanent disconnect from her right eye to her brain, forcing her to wear special glasses to be able to stand up straight.

"It's been awful trying to watch them and help them through it," Westenbroek's grandmother, Barbara Oonk, said, adding that Tammy can't even drive herself to work.

As for Westenbroek, she suffers from severe PTSD, which has forced her to drop out of her third year of culinary school after suffering panic attacks in class.

"I think about the accident a lot," she said. "I couldn’t even get in a car barely for the first month after the accident because I was always scared."

Westenbroek and her grandmother, Oonk, say they hope others will learn from the tragedy their family and so many others will never forget, adding that their family plans to educate others on the dangers of distracted driving.

"It’s not worth a life. I didn’t think I would have to see someone pass away because of something like that," Westenbroek said.

Judge Kenneth Post told Fox that there's "no sentence I could render that's going to heal the hurt."

Five vehicles were involved in the crash.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.