Crash sparks discussion involving athletic teams

MANISTEE — Members of the Manistee High School wrestling team were involved in a crash late Friday afternoon, however, the district superintendent said many people were involved in the decision for the team to continue on to a weekend event, including parents.

Members of Manistee High School’s wrestling team were in a vehicle that was involved in a rollover crash around 5 p.m. on Friday on M-55.

Manistee Area Public Schools superintendent Ron Stoneman said school officials look at all aspects when sending students to an athletic or other event.

“We talk to each other and converse and look at the safety of it and where they are going and what the circumstances are and make a decision,” said Stoneman. “Of course we let everyone know to be as careful as possible.”

Stoneman said they also take into consideration what type of event it is and if it can be rescheduled.

“We determine what the contest is also and if it is something that can be rescheduled we also look at that too,” he said. “This tournament was a (Michigan High School Athletic Association) sponsored tournament, so it is not something that can be rescheduled and if our wrestlers did good at this tournament then they go on to regional, so it was a significant opportunity for our kids.”

The accident occurred around 5:15 p.m. on Friday as the wrestlers were traveling to Grayling for the Saturday event in a Manistee High School van. They had plans to stay overnight on Friday.

The vehicle was traveling east on M-55 near Low Bridge Road when the 25-year-old driver lost control, crossed the westbound land, went into the ditch and overturned, according to the Michigan State Police.

Five students, ages 17,16,16,17, and 15, and two adults, age 25 and 39, were in the vehicle.

“When the kids took off we wanted them to leave in the daylight so they had lots of time to get there. It has been reported that the driver was going 35 mph in a 65 mph zone, so he was trying to be safe and take his time as there was no urgency to get there in a big hurry,” said Stoneman.

Michigan State Police say that the driver was cited for Violation of Basic Speed Law – Too Fast For Conditions.

When learning the of the accident, Stoneman said they immediately wanted the students to be checked out by medical personnel; all passengers were sent to Munson Healthcare Manistee Hospital.

“I had all the students go to the hospital and get checked out because they are kids and sometimes feel they are invincible,” said Stoneman. “The first thing I said was take them to the hospital and each kid got examined at the emergency room. The doctor was able to talk with their parents and see if there was anything they should be concerned about.”

After that was completed, a discussion with the coach, athletic director Matt Kieffer and the parents took place about what they wanted to do next concerning the wrestling meet.

“I talked to the transportation department and decided to send two drivers in one bus, but there was a parent meeting prior to that decision. The parents conversed with the coach and athletic director about the opportunity to continue on (Friday) night and get to Grayling,” said Stoneman. “The parents were very grateful for the opportunity for them to do that.”

The superintendent said safety is always a top priority for the district.

“We got them on a bus with two drivers and that gives them the ability to switch because it is intensive driving and they can rely on each other’s judgment on the road and conditions,” said Stoneman. “So we had two of our most experienced drivers willing to take that trip. So we loaded the team up in one of our newer buses with two drivers, and the parents decided that was OK for them to continue. They made it there Friday night and five wrestlers wrestled and three are going on to the regional tournament.

“We would never purposely put kids in harm’s way at all.”

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