At around 6 p.m. on Friday night, July 31, our family headed to northern
Michigan for a weekend. Dad was planning to play the guitar with a church band
at a service in Alpena on Sunday. We'd decided to go a day early so the girls
would get to see the Mackinaw Bridge and play on the shores nearby.
We stopped for dinner at a Big Boy restaurant. Amy and Lisa were excited to
see a hot air balloon that dipped down to fifty feet or so across the street.
We talked about maybe taking a hot air balloon ride next summer.
Amy was her usual self during dinner: enthusiastic, funny, curious, playing
with her sister. She had crab for dinner and ordered the hot fudge cake for
dessert. She let it melt down a bit, then stirred together the fudge, the
cake, and the melted ice cream. She said she was making a "soup" and invited
the rest of the family to taste it.
When we left the restaurant, Lisa and Mom had to use the girl's room, so Dad
and Amy took a walk to the gas station next door. Dad bought himself a candy
bar. As we walked back across the deserted yard between the restaurant, Amy
commented on all the broken bottles, small car parts, and various other
litter. (That was an ongoing subject for her. She'd often pick up bits of
trash and throw them away if there a nearby trash can. She didn't understand
why people wanted to "ruin the planet" as she said.)
We got back into the Aerostar and started north again on I-75.
At about the same time, there was a drunk driver coming north on the same
The drive was uneventful. Amy spent most of the time in the back seat playing
with Lisa and a new doll they'd got earlier.
As it got later, Amy lost herself in a book. She'd brought several even
though we were going to be gone only 2 days. She loved reading and often went
through several books in one day. This might have been a Bailey School book or
a Babysitter's Club book. (We still haven't determined exactly which book it
was or whether it was recovered from the crash.)
She was reading in the back seat using her flashlight for quite a while after
dark. She finally proudly announced "I'm done now!", closed the book, put her
head back against the seat, and fell asleep.
Dad noticed a string of tail lights in the road ahead. In front of them was a
double row of yellow lights. A semi truck had turned over on its side and
traffic was stopped. There were a handful of cars already stopped. We slowed
down, eventually stopped at the end of the line.
The other driver didn't.
From his report, he had his cruise control set at 70 M.P.H. By the time he
noticed that the cars were not moving, it was too late to brake. There were no
skid marks, he hit the back of our van at his full running speed.
We would later learn that our beloved Amy was killed instantly.
Lisa's injuries were also classified as severe but she survived. She was in a
coma for several weeks and in hospital for several more. Lisa's treatment
while in Petoskey was handled by a wonderful doctor named Dr. David Morris at
Northern Michigan Hospital. She was transferred to Mott Children's Hospital in
Ann Arbor on August 20, then released for outpatient rehabilitation services on
Mom and Dad were also taken to hospital. Jean suffered a tibial head fracture
(a nasty type of broken leg) and three broken ribs. Mike had a broken scapula
and cuts on the forehead.
The driver pleaded guilty to 2 counts of OUIL, one causing death and one
causing injury. (These were the charges for Amy and Lisa.) Similar charges
for Mike and Jean were dropped in exchange for the plea.
The driver was sentenced on February 2, 1999 to serve 4-to-15 years for OUIL
causing Death (Amy) and 3-to-5 years for OUIL causing Injury (Lisa). In
Michigan, these sentence are served concurrently. The actual time served will
probably be less than 3 years.