By Annette Christie
Semi plows into Lane Automotive
On Thursday, June 15 at approximately two in the morning, Berrien County Dispatch received a call for service due to a semi-tractor trailer hitting the Lane Automotive facility located at 8300 Lane Drive in Watervliet Township.
Responding units were advised that the semi left the roadway of eastbound I-94 near the 41-mile marker and crashed into the building. An employee of Lane Automotive made contact with the driver of the semi-truck and assisted him from the semi. There was also a passenger sleeping at the time of the accident.
The driver and passenger were transported to Lakeland Hospital in St. Joseph to be treated for minor injuries. An on scene investigation determined that the driver could have possibly fallen asleep while driving causing him to leave the roadway and strike the building. Police did not detect alcohol during the investigation.
The driver was identified as a 31-year-old from Orlando, Florida while the passenger was 40-year-old male from Hollywood, Florida. The carrier was US Express, Inc. from Chattanooga, Tennessee. The driver was cited for careless driving.
An unknown dollar amount of structural damage and water damage was caused to the building as a result of the accident. The accident ruptured the fire suppression waterlines that flooded a major area of office space, causing damage to computers and other electronics.
The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department was assisted by the Pokagon Tribal Police, Watervliet City Police, Coloma Charter Township Police, Michigan State Police, Watervliet Fire Department, Medic 1 Ambulance Service, and Pride Care Ambulance Service.
Lane Automotive had this posted on their website: “We’re Running As Usual! Despite all of the challenges late last week, we would like to remind everyone that Lane Automotive is still running on all cylinders and ready to provide the best in customer service and inventory. Our team members pulled together in a massive effort, allowing us to keep serving customers at the level that everyone is accustomed to. Stop by or contact Lane Automotive and let us serve you today. Thanks.”
Lane Automotive was founded in 1964. It is known world-wide as a premier supplier of performance parts and accessories. The facility is a 416,000 square foot distribution center/office complex and a showroom.
Plane crash in Watervliet
On Friday, June 16, the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department Watervliet Township Patrol responded to the report of a small aircraft crash, near the Watervliet Municipal Airport located at 8575 Airport Drive in Watervliet Township.
A small aircraft which had been departing from the Watervliet Airport failed to gain necessary altitude, and ultimately crashed into a wooded ravine area near an airport runway.
The airplane was occupied by two individuals: 27-year-old Edward Maloney of Fruitport, Michigan and 36-year-old Jonathan Amundsen of Winter Haven, Florida. Both subjects sustained serious injuries, but were able to remove themselves from the aircraft.
Maloney and Amundsen were transported by paramedics to Lakeland Hospital.
Deputies were assisted at the scene by the Watervliet Fire Department, Watervliet City Police Department, Pokagon Tribal Police Department, Coloma Charter Township Police Department, and Pride Care Ambulance.
The airplane crash remains under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Hartford Township Cemetery Sexton charged with embezzlement
Van Buren County Sheriff Daniel E. Abbott reports that in January of this year (2017), the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Division began an investigation into alleged missing funds that were the responsibility of the Hartford Township Cemetery Sexton. The investigation began at the request of the Hartford Township Board.
A forensic auditor assisted the sheriff’s office with the investigation of Hartford Township’s financial and bookkeeping documents along with evidence collected by law enforcement on several search warrants executed in relation to the investigation.
The investigative report was turned over to the Van Buren County Prosecutor for review. The prosecutor’s office authorized charges this week on Gerrie Heskett for embezzlement between the amounts of $50,000 and $100,000.
The amount of the theft and or misappropriation of funds discovered during the investigation are not being released at this time.
Heskett appeared in South Haven District Court on June 14 and was arraigned. Her next court appearance is set for July 5, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. in South Haven District Court.
Intersection known for accidents has another
Emergency responders were dispatched to the intersection of County Line Road and Red Arrow Highway on Friday, June 16 at approximately 5:40 p.m.
A 2015 Subaru Outback, being operated by an 80-year-old male from Watervliet Township was traveling north-bound on County Line Road when he stopped at the stop sign at Red Arrow Highway. He then proceeded into the intersection and into the path of a 2006 Chrysler Town and Country mini-van. The van was operated by a 76-year-old male from Dexter, Michigan and was traveling west-bound on Red Arrow Highway.
The driver of the mini-van had to be cut out of the vehicle by rescue personnel and was transported to Lakeland Hospital with serious by non-life threatening injuries.
The driver of the Subaru suffered minor injuries and was cited for failure to yield the right-of-way.
Keeler Township accident results in charges
Van Buren County Sheriff Daniel E. Abbott reports that Van Buren County Deputies responded to a single motor vehicle crash in the 90,000 block of County Road 681.
The driver, a 54-year-old male from Elkhart, Indiana showed signs of intoxication and admitted to consuming alcoholic beverages.
After conducting standard field sobriety evaluations, the driver consented to a preliminary breath test and later to a data master evidentiary breath test with a result of .19 BAC. This is 2.3 times the legal limit in the State of Michigan.
The driver also had multiple current operator license suspensions and revocations in the State of Michigan and has plead guilty to a felony operating while intoxicated charge, 3rd offense, in the past.
The man was lodged in the Van Buren County Jail on charges of operating while intoxicated, 3rd offense and driving with a suspended license pending review by the Van Buren County Prosecutor’s Office.
Warrant arrests made in Watervliet
Watervliet City Patrolman Vincent Horton stopped a vehicle on Main Street for a minor traffic violation on June 14. The driver was Vanessa Gaston.
During the traffic stop, it was found that Gaston had an outstanding arrest warrant for shop lifting at the Family Dollar in Watervliet.
Gaston was lodged at the Berrien County Jail without incident.
On June 16, Patrolman Horton observed an SUV parked at Hays Park near the river after the park closed. Horton made contact with the occupants in the vehicle. He determined that one of the passengers had an outstanding civil arrest warrant out of Berrien County.
During the incident, a small amount of marijuana was also located inside the vehicle.
The 24-year-old male with the warrant was lodged at the Berrien County Jail.
Possession of counterfeit funds results in arrest
Watervliet City Patrolman Michael Prince was in the midst of an investigation into counterfeit money being received at the Shell Gas Station, 748 S. Main Street in Watervliet. Through the investigation, Prince established two suspects and made contact with the suspects in Coloma Township.
Ashley Snowden, 33 and Michael Wilson, 30 were found to be in possession of 15 counterfeit twenty dollar bills which were recovered.
Snowden was subsequently arrested for possession of counterfeit currency and a parole violation.
Wilson had several outstanding arrest warrants out of Detroit, MI and a civil warrant out of Macomb County, MI. Wilson was also charged with possession of counterfeit currency.
The two subjects were lodged at the Berrien County jail pending review of this case by the Berrien County Prosecutors office.
Prince was assisted by Michigan State Police Trooper Joe Cook and Coloma Township Police Officer Andrew Ulleg.
Watervliet Township police activity
For the month of May, patrols in Watervliet Charter Township resulted in the following: 14 misdemeanor arrests, 6 felony arrests, 51 traffic stops, 34 citations, assisted other agencies 15 times, 74 residential and business checks, 1 motorist assist, 43 complaints, and 10 follow ups. Berrien County Sheriff’s Deputy Guy Puffer said the Lane Automotive Car Show held on Memorial Day weekend went well. He said the additional parking provided by Orchard Hill Landfill made the parking and the traffic much easier. Puffer said, “It seemed like the largest crowd ever.”
Puffer would like to remind members of the community that if residents see something unusual in their neighborhoods, they should contact the police and let them check it out.
Coloma Charter Township Policy activity
In the month of May, Coloma Township Police Officers investigated 255 complaints. Chief Jason Roe said that the number is up about 30% from this time last year. Those complaints included 18 family/civil situations, 41 non-criminal assists, 21 suspicious situations, 10 larcenies, and 31 assists to other agencies.
The department made 10 felony arrests and 21 misdemeanor arrests. Officers made 108 traffic stops and issued 34 citations.
Intersection on Red Arrow Hwy between Watervliet and Hartford to be closed beginning June 26
According to Michael Juengling, Berrien County Road Commission Traffic Safety & Technology Supervisor, the closure of the Red Arrow Highway and County Line Road (70th Street) intersection will begin the week of June 26 for reconstruction.
This joint project between the Berrien County Road Commission and Van Buren County Road Commission will improve safety at this intersection by raising the grade of the road to allow better sight distance. Drainage will also be addressed.
Traffic will be allowed on these roads up to the work zone but will be closed to thru traffic. Access to Four Winds Casino will be from Hartford only. The project is expected to be completed by September 1, 2017.