Grandmother killed, three others hurt when SUV crashes into tree in Lowell

LOWELL, Mich. -- One person died and three others were injured in an SUV crash on Alden Nash Avenue SE Sunday afternoon.

At 2:33 p.m., the Kent County Sheriff's Office responded to a report of an accident with injuries and possibly fatalities on Alden Nash Avenue near 36th Street SE south of Lowell.

The investigation shows that a 2014 Ford Edge was southbound just north of 36th Street when the driver, a 71-year-old man identified by police as Thomas Phelps, fell asleep behind the wheel.  Investigators say the vehicle left the roadway and hit a tree on the passenger side.

His 63-year-old wife was riding in the front passenger seat and was killed by the impact. Investigators have identified her as Lu Ann Phelps.

Thomas Phelps and the two rear-seat passengers, the couple's grandchildren ages 6 and 3, all suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

Investigators say the family was on their way to the grandparents' home in Schoolcraft at the time of the crash.

The SUV was destroyed and the tree was broken in half by the collision. That tree was in Jim Chernoby's front yard.

“Well I was in the yard, my wife and I, and then we heard all the crash going through here and we heard the explosion in the trees," Chernoby tells FOX 17.

Chernoby says he and his wife started running toward the SUV when they heard the girls screaming. He says they wanted to make sure they were okay.

“Took them in the house to calm them down," Chernoby says. "They were pretty upset. Calmed them down, tried to get them something to drink, some chocolate milk and stuff, get them so they weren’t thinking about grandma and grandpa.”

According to police, the girls were taken to Helen DeVos Children's Hospital were they were treated for their injuries.

Chernoby says deadly crashes like these occur far too often on his street.

“There ain’t a time I’m not in my yard where I don’t hear gravel flying," Chernoby says.

There have been many crashes on Alden Nash over the years. Chernoby says when he moved into his home 30 years ago, he was warned things like this would happen in his front yard.

“When we bought the property they told us, ‘Have your phone ready for 911,'" Chernoby says.

He says accidents happen so often, he usually just calls 911 and won't approach the scene, but this time was different.

“I’m just tired of it, the speed and the accidents, and when you see little kids screaming, then you can’t back off, you know?” Chernoby says.

According to police, everyone in the SUV was wearing a seatbelt.

That stretch of Alden Nash was closed for several hours Sunday afternoon while police investigated and cleared the scene.

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