Chief says rescuers still bothered by fatal U.S. 23 rollover a year later: 'It sticks with you'
Michigan State Police troopers continue to investigate the June 2012 rollover on U.S.-23 that killed two children and severely injured five other occupantsof an SUV, officials said this week.
The crash closed the highway for hours as first responders and bystanders struggled to save all of the occupants in the Ford Expedition, a rescue effort that still weighs on some of the participants.
Within hours of the incident, two of the six children in the vehicle had died and police were launching the still-open investigation into what caused the rollover.
Sgt. Mark Thompson said Monday investigators are waiting on “forensic lab results” on the vehicle that troopers believe caused the rollover crash that killed 11-year-old Ashley Siegel and 14-year-old Jordan Siegel on June 22, 2012.
A woman turned a Honda Odyssey over to state police troopers in July 2012 and began working with investigators through an attorney. However, that was one of the last updates in the investigation from troopers.
Just before 3 p.m. on June 22, 2012, Dawn Siegel was driving south on U.S. 23, south of Michigan Avenue, in a 1999 Ford Expedition. There were six children inside — four of Siegel’s children and her two stepchildren, Ashley and Jordan. According to police, the Odyssey moved into the lane already occupied by the Expedition.
The Expedition swerved to avoid the Odyssey and rolled over several times before coming to rest on its roof in the median. Both Ashley and Jordan died at the scene of the crash. They were students at Royal Oak Middle School.
AnnArbor.com has not been able to reach the family for comment.
Troopers called the crash “exceptionally violent.” Police at the time said that an accident reconstructionist was not able to confirm actual contact was made between the Odyssey and the Expedition, but witnesses told police the vehicles did, in fact, collide.
Pittsfield Township Fire Department Chief Sean Gleason said two of his newer firefighters were the first on the scene that day. What they saw there still resonates with them today.
Three people were outside of the Expedition by the time the firefighters got on scene. A bystander was performing CPR on one of the children. The firefighters had to cut another child out of the Expedition.
“It sticks in their minds a lot,” Gleason said. “Those are the worst calls, involving kids.”
After the crash, Gleason said a critical incident stress debriefing followed — a regular coping exercise for first responders who deal with a particularly tragic incident. He said the responding firefighters all went into a room with a counselor and simply talked about the incident, trying to work through their emotions.
The exercise is extremely helpful for those who go through it, he said.
“They did say it was good to talk about it,” Gleason said, recalling his own experiences after a crash about 12 years ago.
“I picked up one of the dead kids out of the car seat and my son was the same age and same size. It reminded me of picking up my son and it (the debriefing) helped me so much by getting it off my chest. That’s what these things are about. Most people, once they get it off their chest and they talk about it, they can start to move on.”
After the June 2012 crash, the driver of the Odyssey continued south on U.S. 23. It was 2½ weeks until a woman came forward through her attorney. The Odyssey was turned over to police for tests, officials confirmed on July 11, 2012.
To this point, no one has been arrested or charged in the case. The woman’s name was never released because she was not charged with a crime. Police would only call the woman a person of interest at the time the vehicle was turned over, and nothing has changed.
In the aftermath of the crash, police released two of about 15 calls made to 911 by passers-by reporting the crash. Officials said the public played a major role in assisting the Siegel family at the crash scene and assisting paramedics and investigators in the chaotic minutes after the rollover.
For those who responded to the crash, life moves on. However, that doesn’t make living with the memory of the crash any easier.
Gleason said there’s a few firefighters who responded to the scene that are still bothered by the crash.
“They can talk about it, but you can tell by the look on their face it sticks with them,” he said.