BRONSON, Mich. — Sarah Howard laughed briefly Wednesday afternoon when she thought about her 17-year-old son Tyler Wirtz. She shared about a time they were at Meijer together in October and they played a joke on the cashier.
“I said to the cashier I said ‘you need to call security because this kid is following me and I don’t know who he is,’” said Howard with a smile. “And [Tyler] was so serious and he goes ‘Um I don’t know who she is and I am going home with her.’”
That time at Meijer with her son would be one of her last. Wirtz was killed Tuesday night when an Amtrak train crashed into his Ford F-150 in Lawton near Nursery Street. Lawton police said his tire was stuck in the tracks.
“We believe he was in the vehicle when it was struck by the train and potentially ejected,” said Lawton Police Chief Jeffrey Mack. “Witness statements from within the train said they believe he was inside the truck when the collision occurred.”
Police said the train was traveling over 110mph and that Wirtz may not have known how fast the train was going. However they determined from tire tracks on the ground that he tried to get away. When police, the sheriff's office and the local fire department arrived they tried to save his life.
“The individual was transported to Bronson Lake View hospital for further treatment,” said Chief Mack. “Unfortunately he was pronounced deceased at the hospital.”
That’s where Howard found out, the family said. Since then she’s felt ‘numb, emotional, and lonely.’ Relatives, including Tyler’s father Matthew, have been at her home and haven't left her side.
“He always told me he loved me,” said Howard who also lost her husband to cancer in July. “He always gave me a hug everyday.”
Wirtz father said the last 24 hours for him have been ‘empty.’ He misses his son whom he described to be fan of classic rock, cars and most importantly people. He was friends with everyone. Now all of them will be at his funeral. Matthew hopes that other parents will learn from their experience.
“Hug your kids and tell them you love ‘em," he said.
***If you’d like to make a donation to Tyler Wirtz GoFundMe page, click here.***