GEORGETOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. – A community is grieving following the tragic crash near Hudsonville that killed a 13-year-old boy Monday afternoon.
Ottawa County Sheriff Deputies report at least 10 others who are recovering after the accident. It happened along eastbound I-196 near M-6, where traffic was stopped because of a lane closure in a construction zone.
Police believe a distracted driver caused the accident. Travis Fox, 40, told deputies he was eating a sandwich, and then looked down at his GPS before rear ending the vehicle in front of him.
Aliya Talsma, 16, was driving that vehicle; she is the granddaughter of well-known local business owner, Richard Talsma. In the backseat was his grandson, 13-year-old David Talsma, who died at the scene.
Mary Broene is the principal of Hudsonville Christian Middle School where David Talsma was a student. She and the local church, Immanuel Christian Reformed Church, continue to help the community work through their grief.
Broene released the following statement to FOX 17 News:
“David was a delightful young man. He was rather quiet yet always fun to be around. He was kind and had a very sensitive heart. He always had a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eyes. David was a willing helper and a conscientious student. He was involved in many activities at school such as band and track. He was a good friend - someone with whom everyone got along. David was confident in knowing that he was a beloved Child of God and his love for the Lord was evident.”
“The Hudsonville community is wonderful. Immanuel Christian Reformed Church is heavily involved providing different means of support for the families. Our middle school will also be providing support for David's classmates at the school in the near future. Details will be sent to parents of his classmates later today. David's death is a tragic situation for all who had the privilege of knowing and loving David.”
FOX 17 also spoke with a mother whose daughter was badly hurt in this accident. She stresses to all drivers that “your life can change in a second,” noting how important it is to drive safely, without distraction.
Tuesday FOX 17 met with the National Save a Life Tour, a Kent County business that demonstrates what distracted driving really looks like.
Clay Martin, program manager with Save a Life Tour, operated their simulated drive with one hand on the driver’s wheel and his other onto a cell phone, buzzing 30 seconds into the test drive.
From the time Martin’s cell phone buzzed, to the time he responded to a random text message, he took his eyes on and off the road for a good six seconds.
“It’s just a little bit of time makes a lot of distance in the car, and a lot of room for mistake,” said Martin.
Martin typically demonstrates this simulation to students, showing how taking your eyes off the road even for a split second-to text, eat, or look at your GPS-can cause a deadly accident.
“If you’re moving at 55 mph you will go the length of a football field all while you’re looking at your phone,” said Martin.
Martin said if drivers are using their phone for GPS, then mount it to keep it out of the driver’s reach.
He stressed that driving safely without distractions is not only important for yourself, but for those you love.
“When you’re on the road, you’re taking care of hundreds if not thousands of complete strangers: people you would not meet any other way but they’re on that road, they’re part of your community,” said Martin. “You’re taking care of them, you’re taking care of yourself, and you’re taking care of your friends and family who’d be there with you in the hospital bed.”
In regards to Monday’s deadly accident, Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Austin said the driver allegedly at fault has not been charged yet. Any possible charges will not be made until their investigation is completed, which Sgt. Austin said will take at least two weeks.