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Teens rescued from burning car in deadly Ottawa Co. crash as bystander holds toddler victim

Neighbors are also speaking out, saying the intersection has always been dangerous and it would be hard for anyone to stop at the sign on the gravel road.

GEORGETOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. — We are learning more about a deadly crash in Ottawa County that left a 14-year-old dead, and four other kids injured including an infant.

Sheriff's deputies first on the scene pulled several people from a Jeep that had burst into flames, and nearby neighbors say the intersection has always been very dangerous.

According to authorities, the driver was a 17-year-old male. Also in the car were a 13-year-old passenger in the front seat, a 14-year-old and 22-month-old passenger in the back seat, with a 14-year-old female passenger who was killed in the accident.

As of Thursday afternoon, investigators say the driver is in serious but stable condition, the 13-year-old and 22-month-old are both in critical condition, and the 14-year-old is in stable condition.

The accident happened Wednesday in Georgetown Township at the intersection of Jackson Street and 22nd Avenue. Investigators said the Jeep, carrying the five occupants, went through the stop sign and pulled out into the path of a gravel truck. 

The Ottawa County Sheriff's Office said when deputies arrived on scene, the Jeep was on fire. Some of the passengers were out of the car, including the infant, but several others were still trapped inside. That's when two deputies ran to save the rest from the flames. 

"We're proud of them," said Captain J. Douglas with the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office. "They obviously did something that, yeah we signed up for, but those are the days we go in there and you really know what you did that day. You changed someone's life, and potentially saved someone's life."

"They just saw something that needed action and jumped in and took care of it," he added. 

Authorities said several of the occupants of the Jeep were not wearing seatbelts, and it was a bystander taking care of the infant when deputies arrived. 

The driver of the gravel truck was not injured in the accident. 

Several people that live near the gravel intersection spoke to 13 ON YOUR SIDE reporter Keely Lovern about the area, saying it has always been dangerous. 

Jenna VanOverLoop has lived on Jackson Street road for 16 years, and is hurting for the victims. She said she wasn't surprised to hear that an accident had happened there.  

"Even myself having driven this before, I've gotten caught up before too, where it's hard to stop if you don't know the stop sign is coming," she said. "This is a very dangerous intersection, this happens all the time, and we see it quite frequently unfortunately."

Mitch Faber, another neighbor, said he drives by this intersection almost every day, and said he's always known this to be a problem spot.

"You could be traveling about 35 miles per hour, lock up your brakes, and you're still just going to be sliding out," says Faber. "It does give you a warning over there, but if you aren't paying attention to the side of the road, you're not going to be able to see it."

This is especially because if you've never driven it before, you'd have no idea the stop sign is there or that the gravel leading up to it is short and slippery.

"Thankfully I've taken it a few times," he said. "But you would never know the stop sign was there, and you're not going to recognize that sign that quickly."

According to the Ottawa County Road Commission, there have been four accidents at this intersection since 2020, including the one on Wednesday. They said in 2020, several safety updates were put in place including reflectors and a "STOP AHEAD" sign. However, after situations like this, they said they do need take another look.

"We take the time when something like that happens to review those incidents and see what types of improvements, if any, could be made," said Alex Doty, the Communications Administrator for the Ottawa County Road Commission. 

Doty also said, however, that some issues can't be helped.

"Unfortunately, in some things, you know, you try as much as you can to improve safety at an intersection, but sometimes that isn't something that a lot of times can be improved," he says.

Both VanOverLoop and Faber believe the intersection can be improved, though. Each brought up several ideas for solutions to the dangerous intersection, including making the end of the road concrete that leads up to the stop sign, more signage indicating the stop sign, or even flashing lights that are easier to see. 

"Just so you can see, like, hey we're stopping right here," says VanOverLoop.

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