WHITE RIVER TOWNSHIP, Mich.–It’s hard not to stare. Dozens of gawkers drove out to Hancock Road near Chase Road in White River Township Wednesday to see it for themselves. A chunk of the road is missing, washed out.
“I saw a car in the ravine and all you could see was its tires sticking out and water rushing through it pretty good,” said trucker Steve Smith.
Muskegon County Sheriff’s deputies were called to the location at 7399 Hancock Road around 3:45 a.m. Wednesday after overnight rains caused a culvert to fail and a 20-foot section of the road to wash out. A vehicle ended up plunging into a large hole filled with rushing cold water.
“I was driving along and then I just remember looking up, and probably 10 yards in front of me, it looked like the road disappeared,” said Kyle Cloutier, 20, from Muskegon County who was driving the vehicle that plunged into the hole.
“My first instinct was to hit the brakes.”
He and his best friend Nicoli Wallace, the passenger, were headed home from a late night of video games when their red Chrysler took a nosedive into the missing road.
“I heard the panic in his voice,” said Wallace.
“I thought we were going to hit a deer. I looked up and the road was gone. When we went off and the way we landed with so much weight, we went nose deep and we could feel it. The air bags didn’t go off, but we were buckled in.”
The car eventually landed on its roof and both young men were trapped. The vehicle was filling with cold water and fast.
“We might have had an inch of air left in the car and we both took that last breath and I thought we were done,” said Wallace. “It’s like in the movies when you can’t get the door open.”
Luckily, Kyle Cloutier was able to push a door open and the young men popped out with water gushing all around them.
Cloutier was swept away from the current, while his friend climbed on top of the car. Eventually Cloutier said he pulled Wallace to a safer location. They waited in the freezing water.
“That was the longest 15 minutes of my life,” said Cloutier.
Wallace’s cell phone survived the crash and he was able to dial for help.
“Luckily he had his iPhone and the water-proof case couldn’t have come in at better time,” said Cloutier.
Within around 20 minutes, rescue crews were able to pull the guys out and they were taken to the hospital to be treated for hypothermia.
Besides some bruises and a broken tooth, they are fine. They were home from the hospital by Wednesday afternoon to talk about their amazing story of survival.
Nicoli Wallace is thankful his buddy got that door open.
“I’m so thankful to be alive and thankful for Kyle,” he said. “If we weren’t best friends before, we certainly are now.”
The road, a main drag in the Montague area, is closed. The missing section was still washed out Wednesday afternoon. Chunks of gravel and concrete continue to fall in. A blind dog fell into the hole on Wednesday afternoon, but was pulled out by his owner and is okay.
No word on when the road will be fixed and reopened.