Driver places homemade cross at scene of crash that killed toddler

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RAVENNA TOWNHIP, Mich. — Kneeling quietly next to a homemade wooden cross he'd placed in the ground at the intersection of Ellis and Moorland Road the night prior, Jeff Meekhof said he had to do something.

“I can’t even explain it, I'm just heartbroken," he said. "Sometimes I think it should’ve been me laying there.”

Shortly after 12 p.m. June 25, Meekhof was driving home, headed north on Moorland. It's a route he says he takes almost daily. Sara Curtis, 24, and her two young daughters were headed east on Ellis in their minivan at the same time.

Briefly distracted by her daughters in the backseat, police said it's likely Curtis never even saw the stop sign. Cross traffic doesn't stop.

“By the time I saw her she was right in front of me, so I laid down in the front seat and last I remember I was bouncing off the windshield," Meekhof said.

"I woke up in the hatch of the Jeep and crawled out the rear window, and that’s when I realized what was going on.”

Courtesy Lori Hilliard Lange

Courtesy Lori Hilliard Lange

The impact of the crash forced both vehicles off the road.

Dazed, struggling to stand up, Meekhof said he ran to the minivan. It had flipped onto its side.

"I could hear (the mother) screaming. Her 4-year-old daughter was still in the van," he said. “I was in shock, just complete shock. I didn’t know what to do at that time."

Aided by several bystanders who stopped at the scene, Meekhof said he helped pull the 4 year old out of the van. He didn't remember if the girls' mother said anything to him. It was chaotic.

Alayna Curtis, 2, killed in crash.

Alayna Curtis, 2, killed in crash.

Bystanders attempted performing CPR on Alayna until first responders arrived. Muskegon County Sheriff Dean Roesler later called their actions "heroic." Medics were unable to revive her.

“I don’t know if there’s anything really heroic about it. It’s being a human being, that’s human nature," Meekhof said. "That’s what you’re supposed to do.”

The following morning is when Meekhof said he realized what else he was supposed to do.

He built a cross out of wood, carved Alayna Curtis' name into it and the date she died, and placed it at the corner the next day.

“My heart just breaks for her and her family because I can’t imagine what they’re going through," he told FOX 17. “We’re all human, we all make mistakes. It was just an accident."

Not wanting Alayna's death to be in vain, Meekhof said he hopes the crash will lead to safety improvements at the intersection, and he wants to be the one leading the charge.

“There’s just something about it, it’s just not right and people are running these stop signs daily," he said, calling it a suicide corner.

"Something's got to happen here because it’s a problem. There’s not much for warning signs... it sneaks right up on you."

Meekhof suggested making the intersection a four-way stop or adding rumble strips to warn drivers about a stop ahead. He said he plans to start a petition to present to the county road commission.

“I feel bad about what happened," he said. “I want (drivers) to slow down and pay attention. I want them to remember what’s happened here.”

Cross with Alayna Curtis' name placed at crash scene.

Cross with Alayna Curtis' name placed at crash scene.

Several friends and relatives of the Curtis' declined to comment on camera, instead asking for prayers.

Ted Bushman, Sara Curtis' father, told FOX 17 on Wednesday the family was grateful no one else was killed and he hoped they could one day meet with Meekhof.

He said his daughter and granddaughters were headed to the beach at the time of the crash and Curtis had turned around briefly because they were misbehaving in the backseat.

"There are still no words to describe how I am feeling, I am so heartbroken and tears are always filling my eyes," said Shalin Kober, a family friend who created a GoFundMe page for the family that's already raised more than $10,000 since Sunday.

Funeral services for Alayna will be held Friday, July 1, at 4 p.m. at Resurrection Life Church, 3233 10 Mile Road, N.E. Rockford, according to her obituary.

As a matter of policy, as with all fatal crashes, the accident report will be turned over to the Muskegon County Prosecutors office for review, Roesler said.

"I urge all readers to please not draw conclusions as to the fact this report is being reviewed by the prosecutor's office," he said.

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