WYOMING, MI – Sharing a patrol car, Wyoming police sergeants Chris DeBoer and Rob Meredith got ahead of a wrong-way driver on U.S. 131 to alert other motorists to get out of the way.
Staring at headlights coming at them, the two officers decided they had to do more.
They set up their police cruiser in the median of U.S. 131 which is a north-south freeway in western Michigan. With the pickup truck bearing down on their cruiser, DeBoer pointed the cruiser’s front bumper slightly off center at the last moment to avoid a head-on crash.
The pickup truck, traveling about 80 mph, violently collided with the cruiser and glanced off. The smashed truck continued on about two more miles before coming to a stop.
The officers and the driver traveling in the wrong direction survived the collision that was captured on dash cam video.
“You just see the headlights coming,” Meredith said. “And they were coming fast, you know, 80 mph, it’s on you fast.”
The hard-to-fathom 2018 crash was one of 26 incidents involving wrong-way drivers found during MLive’s review of five years of police reports from 2014-18. MLive found those crashes resulted in 17 deaths and another 15 people suffering critical injuries.
The crash involving the Wyoming police officers resulted in only minor injuries.
It was just before 2 a.m., July 27, 2018. A pickup truck was going south in the northbound lanes on U.S. 131.
Dispatchers first got calls about the wrong-way driver near Wealthy Street. The pickup nearly hit a different police officer at 28th Street while going to the Kent County Jail with a prisoner.
Meredith said he and DeBoer hoped to block traffic but, quickly determined that the pickup had to be stopped.
They hoped that the driver would see their patrol car, its lights flashing, and hit the brakes. Even if the driver only tried to stop at the last minute, the slower speed would have lessened the impact.
It didn’t slow.
“You just know it’s coming. You really don’t have any other choice,” Meredith said.
“You could pull off and let him hit a citizen but, that’s not why we’re there.”
DeBoer, who was driving, and Meredith, got on northbound U.S. 131 at 54th Street.
At a distance, the officers shined a spotlight at the driver’s windshield, hoping to get his attention. It did not work.
The sergeants knew that taking a high-speed impact on either door could be deadly for one of them. DeBoer, at the last moment, drove forward and turned to deliver more of a “glancing blow” than a full head-on impact.
Meredith said his partner’s driving maneuver saved serious injury or death. The pickup truck continued another two miles before breaking down.
The sergeants’ airbags went off. Both men suffered minor injuries. The truck driver wasn’t seriously injured. He had previous drunken-driving convictions and was arrested that night for drunken driving, as well.
The 62-year-old driver was sentenced to 15 months to five years in prison after he pleaded guilty to third-offense drunken driving. He was paroled in January.
You can watch the event as it unfolded, courtesy of the Sergeants’ dash cam … just ‘CLICK’ on the arrow, below.
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