Causes Death of Second Driver, and Injury to Passenger
In a tragic series of events last month, a Portage drunk driver got into his truck after consuming multiple beers with friends at a neighborhood bar. He then proceeded to drive the wrong way on U.S. 131, resulting in a head-on collision that took his life, the life of the driver in the other vehicle, and seriously injuring a passenger.
Police have attempted to piece together the events preceding the fatal accident on the night of April 15th, 2014. According to police records, Jeremy Smeltzer, 29, was invited to meet a group of his friends for a few drinks at Shifter’s Bar and Grill in Oshtemo Township. The tab from that night shows that he drank six pints of Bell’s Oberon beer before leaving the bar at about 11pm.
No one knows why Smeltzer drove his Chevrolet pickup truck north in the southbound lanes of U.S. 131, or how he managed to travel 18 miles without realizing his error or being pulled over by police. Several people noticed his vehicle traveling in the wrong direction on the highway and called to report a possible drunk driver to police. One of the witnesses mentions that Smeltzer was driving “straight as an arrow” in the lane he was traveling in, and noted that at one point his speed was most likely in excess of 90 mph.
Several Michigan State Police troopers attempted to reach Smeltzer to make a traffic stop, but according to State Police Lt. Tom Draves, the post commander in Wayland, less than two minutes elapsed between the dispatch and the accident, giving troopers insufficient time to intercept Smeltzer and pull him over.
Based on information provided by a crash reconstructionist for the MSP, the dash cams of MSP officers who were within sight of the accident when it occurred, and the memory of the only survivor, 21-year-old Jaryd Ford of Plainwell, MI and his passenger, 26-year-old Megan Covey, were on their way to Steak N’ Shake in Kalamazoo. Ford was driving his Mustang onto the on-ramp of southbound U.S. 131 from eastbound M-89 when they were struck by Smeltzer’s truck traveling at high speed towards them.
Ford was killed instantly, but Smeltzer was taken to Borgess Medical Center in Kalamazoo, where he was pronounced dead. Covey was also hospitalized with two broken legs and a broken elbow.
Police talked to Smeltzer’s wife, Jennifer, and his father, Jerry, both of whom told officers that Smeltzer had been a regular drinker in his younger days, but had recently stopped drinking and smoking because he and his wife were trying to start a family.
According to a Michigan State Police laboratory report, blood samples were taken after the crash which showed that Smeltzer’s blood alcohol level was at 0.214%, which is more than 2 ½ times the legal limit in Michigan.
If you are facing drunk driving charges in the state of Michigan, our experienced attorneys are fully equipped to provide you with the best defense possible. But the best advice we can give to anyone, is don’t drink and drive to begin with.