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One dead after car & train collide in Lake Odessa

8:15 PM, Aug 20, 2013   |    comments
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  • Lake Odessa, Mich. (August 19, 2013)
  • Lake Odessa, Mich. (August 19, 2013)

LAKE ODESSA, Mich. (Lansing State Journal/WZZM) -- A 20-year-old Portland man was killed Monday after police said a train slammed into his car, which witnesses said exploded in flames.

Michael Cole died in the crash, which happened shortly after 8 p.m. at the Jordan Lake Avenue crossing in Lake Odessa, state police said.

Authorities believe Cole was driving north on Jordan Lake Avenue when he was hit by the eastbound train.

Lt. Brody Boucher, assistant post commander at the state police's Lakeview post, said preliminary witness reports indicate the crossing's flashing lights were working. There are no gates at the crossing.

The crash remains under


Cole was a 2011 graduate of Portland High School. He was a member of the boys tennis team for four years, earning All-State honors his sophomore year.

"Michael was an exceptional talent, as well as a terrific kid from a terrific family," said Jim Niebling, Portland's tennis coach. "When he walked in a room, he was instantly the most popular person in the room.

"When he hit the courts, he was as hard a worker as anyone could imagine and he had the talent to back it up," Niebling said. "He was a terrific team captain. One of the things he would do before practice was to take some time, get some of the freshman players and hit some balls with them. That is one of my fondest memories. Some of those players who were freshmen then are taking this hard."

Witnesses told WZZM 13 News in Grand Rapids that they were shopping in a nearby Family Dollar store when they heard the collision and an explosion. They said when they went outside the vehicle was engulfed in flames.

According to Federal Railroad Administration data, the last collision at that crossing, north of M-50, was in 1981. No injuries were reported. That crash involved an unspecified truck that was moving over the crossing when it was struck by a freight train.

The typical speed range for a train at that crossing is 35 to 40 mph, according to a U.S. Department of Transportation crossing inventory. The crossing is owned by Jacksonville, Fla.-based railroad CSX Corp.

A CSX spokeswoman said there were no injuries to the train's crew. The 45-car train was being pulled by three locomotives and was carrying mixed freight, the spokeswoman said.

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