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Mattawan Fire Cadet dies in Van Buren Co. crash

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ALMENA TOWNSHIP, Mich. — A high school senior and volunteer firefighter was killed Thursday evening in a crash in Van Buren County. Police said it happened around 5:40pm at the intersection of County Road 652 and 44th Avenue in Almena Township.  Deputies are still investigating the cause of the crash.

"The pickup truck with the 18-year-old was in was traveling northbound on county road 652," said Sergeant Ron Douglas with the Van Buren Sheriff's Department. "The minivan that struck him was traveling westbound on 44th avenue forcing the pickup truck off the roadway striking a tree."

Police said the 18-year-old's pickup was pinned against a large tree.  He needed to be extricated from his vehicle and was pronounced dead at the scene. He has been identified by Mattawan Fire officials as Riley Manning.

"It was a very tragic event," said Douglas. "We do not believe at this point and time that drugs or alcohol were a factor in the crash. However it remains under investigation."

Mattawan Fire Chief Terron McLean tells FOX 17 that Manning had been a cadet in their program since 2014.  He said Manning was very dependable around the station and was a "good kid." He was also a student at Van Buren Technology Center.  School administrators released a statement saying that he was an "amazing student." He was "the type of person that everyone liked."

The 44-year-old woman from Decatur in the other vehicle suffered back and minor neck injuries.  Three kids in her vehicle, ages 13, 9 and 7, were not hurt. Neighbors said they'd seen at least six crashes at that intersection in recent years. After each one, they've requested that a stop sign go up or flashing yellow lights be installed.

"I think the road commission is involved," said Sgt. Douglas. "They work very closely with us. I'm certain at every crash they take a look at and review things."

Crews were on the scene Friday morning cleaning up the damaged yard. Douglas said more details will emerge in the following weeks but this crash is a little harder than usual to investigate. Some of the officers knew him.

"It makes it extremely difficult," said Douglas. "People that reside in the community have  a lot of close ties with one another and serving in public safety. It hits really close to home."

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  • Forrest Butterfield

    The 44th westbound stop sign has a huge oak tree right at the intersection. Drivers familiar with the intersection will stop, then proceed with extreme caution as the north bound cars pop up from the ravine. These north bound drivers turn on 652 from Red Arrow highway just a few miles south. Red Arrow is a higher speed 55 mph road. 652 also a well constructed high speed road for the first two miles, but narrows and most experienced drivers will then drop 5-10 mph in speed per hazardous driving.