SPRING LAKE, Mich. — In early February, Samantha Turcotte of Spring Lake was involved in an accident, and though it was no fault of her own, it ultimately left her without a car. Now, she walks to work every day, and it takes her more than an hour.
Turcotte had no idea that the drive home from her daughter's color guard competition on Saturday, Feb. 4, would turn her life upside down. But, despite the circumstances, she's not letting anything stop her from staying dedicated to her job and supporting her family.
"It had been snowing so everything was white," Turcotte said, as she described the drive home that evening just before 7 p.m.
She was traveling southbound on US-31 at the bend near Van Wagoner Road in Ferrysburg, and could faintly see police lights in the distance.
"I saw out of the corner of my eye that someone was pulled over on the other side, but before I even had a chance to blink, there was a person," she said, "and I ended up hitting him."
Unbeknownst to Turcotte, the man who she hit was running from police. Just before, deputies with the Ottawa County Sheriff's office had made a traffic stop on the other (northbound) side of US-31. Investigators said the 26-year-old male passenger of the car that was pulled over had gotten out and ran, crossing the median, and directly into Turcotte's path.
"I could hear the gentleman screaming," Turcotte said. "It was scary and I panicked of course, but then I pulled over."
"Later I found out that the guy had fled from his vehicle because he had had a warrant," she added.
Investigators with the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office confirmed to 13 ON YOUR SIDE that Turcotte was not at fault for the accident, and she was released from the scene a little more than an hour later.
Authorities said first responders treated the suspect on the scene, and he was then hospitalized with serious injuries. As of this publication, investigators said he is still being treated, but none of his injuries were life-threatening.
Turcotte and her 7-year-old son, who was riding in the back seat, were not injured in the accident.
"I really couldn't think when it first happened," Turcotte said. "And then when my son asked me if I had hit a deer, I was thinking I really wish I had."
Turcotte's Ford Focus had a smashed windshield and large dent from the impact. She explained that it was taken away and was then sent to a towing company, but she couldn't afford the cost of getting it released, especially as the cost went up $50 each night it was left in the lot.
"It was Tuesday when I went to get it, and even if I had been able to come up with the money by the end of that week, it would have still costed more than what my paycheck was to even get it out," Turcotte explained.
"Eventually, I just told myself it wasn't worth the anxiety and the stress, and my health," she added, "so I just signed the car off."
Now with no car, Turcotte has been walking to work. It takes her about an hour and a half, and for most of the five days she works, her shift starts at 5 a.m.
"According to my GPS, it would only take hour if I were to take the bike trail through Spring Lake," Turcotte explained, "but unfortunately at like 3:30 in the morning, it's pitch black, and dangerous to be walking through that alone."
No matter the weather, she's dedicated to the more than 3 mile journey every day. Sometimes she can take the city bus, but not for her super-early shifts when it's not operating.
"I can't not be working," said Turcotte. "I've got my kids to support, but also it's a job."
"It's an obligation that I chose," she added, "and when I applied for it, that meant I would be there no matter what."
Turcotte said her friends, family, and co-workers have been amazing and supportive, but most of the time it's up to her to get to her job until she can find a new affordable, and reliable car.
"My biggest priority is the safety of my kids," she said, "and so far I haven't been able to find anything I can afford."
"I mean, the walk isn't a bad thing," Turcotte said with a smile on her face, "it's good exercise, plus it sometimes helps me clear my head."
But even she admits that sometimes staying positive is challenging, especially with plantar fasciitis in both of her feet.
"I have been noticing though that my legs are definitely hurting," she said, "and I've had my moments when I break down, but I just try to stay positive."
Another factor that's made the last month difficult, is that since losing her car, Turcotte has not been able to see her son. He is living in Ludington with his dad, and without her transportation, they haven't been able to coordinate visits.
"That's been really hard for me," said Turcotte.
"But even when my feet feel like I'm walking on glass, I just keep doing my work," she added. "I smile, I greet people, and I do my job."
The Ottawa County Sheriff's Office said that in addition to any other charges he was facing, the 26-year-old from Norton Shores who was hit by Turcotte will also face possible charges for fleeing from police on that Saturday evening.
"If nothing else comes out of sharing my story, I hope at least the next person this might happen to just knows to stay strong," Turcotte said. "Just try to stay strong, and at some point, something good is gonna happen."
If you'd like to help Turcotte in any way, you can contact 13 ON YOUR SIDE'S Keely Lovern at KeelyLovern@13OnYourSide.com, and she'll pass it along to Samantha.
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