Police: Historic grave sites wrecked by possible drunk driver

Posted at 4:14 PM, May 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-15 16:53:22-04

CALEDONIA TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- A possible drunk driver is responsible for damaging a row of gravestones Monday morning at Alaska Cemetery, according to the Kent County Sheriff's Dept.

Police say a 21-year-old Caledonia Township man drove his vehicle off the road around 5:30 a.m., then crashed it into a tree.

The unidentified driver and 21-year-old passenger from Lansing damaged four headstones dating back to the 1800s.

Jennifer Venema, the township clerk, says Alaska Cemetery is one of five owned by the township, all of which house historical burial grounds. The gravestones damaged are older than township records but after some digging, Venema believes the headstones belong to these four people: Joseph Karrer (1860), Maria Karrer (1869), Michael Karrer (1871), and Sanford Morse (1862).

"We can replace those stones but they are never going to be what they were," said Venema. "Even if we can get close, you cannot replace an 1800 headstone."

The crash happened next to a daycare facility near the intersection of Thornapple River Drive SE and 68th Avenue. Both the driver and passenger were sent to nearby hospitals with non-life threatening injuries, leaving the township to clean up the mess.

"Obviously we will have a lot of clean up that has to be done. Memorial Day is Monday so it'll be our top priority moving forward this week," Venema said.

Investigators say criminal charges are possible for the driver. Until then, Caledonia Twp. will be filing a claim with their insurance company.