MARNE, MI (WHTC News) - Although all involved are now back in their homes, investigators still aren't certain what led to a six-vehicle pileup early Tuesday morning that closed I-96 in northeast Ottawa County for three hours, hospitalized four persons in the process, and will necessitate an emergency repair on Wednesday.
According to Sheriff’s Sergeant Bob Ruster, it began just before midnight when a 40-year-old Muskegon man was heading towards Grand Rapids. Roger Lenneman lost control of his eastbound car, which struck the center railing and veered into the highway. He was able to get out of the disabled vehicle before another car, driven by 58-year-old Diane Johnson of Norton Shores, and a semi, driven by 52-year-old Gerald Biesel of Zeeland struck the automobile. The semi jackknifed across the highway as a result, and another car trying to swerve around the situation, driven by 31-year-old Daniel Vazquez-Jimenez of Muskegon, struck the guardrail.
As authorities were dealing with that situation, 29-year-old Tara Kolenic of Fruitport was heading towards home in the opposite direction. She slowed her westbound car about 20 miles below the posted speed limit, and it was then rear-ended by a SUV that was apparently going at full speed. The force of the collision drove Kolenic's car hard into the guardrail. Rescue crews had to extricate her, and she, along with the SUV driver, 25-year-old Luke Esselman of Coopersville, his passenger, 22-year-old Ashley Leeds of Muskegon, and Lenneman were all taken to Spectrum-Butterworth Hospital for treatment of various injuries. All of them had been released by Tuesday afternoon. The other drivers involved were not hurt.
The highway reopened before 4 AM, and investigators haven't determined what led Lenneman to lose control of his vehicle that triggered the incident. M-DOT officials said that the extent of the damaged guardrail and the safety that it provides have necessitated an immediate repair. The right lane of eastbound I-96 between 48th and 24th Avenues will be closed on Wednesday from 8 AM to 3 PM.