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Posted on Sat, May 18, 2013 : 7:38 p.m.

Ann Arbor doctor killed in Saturday morning crash

By Cole Bertsos

Related: U-M physician killed in weekend crash drew praise from colleagues, patients.

An Ann Arbor doctor was killed in a crash along eastbound I-94 near Zeeb Road at Saturday morning, according to Michigan State Police.


Steven Ernst Gradwohl

Courtesy of

Steven Ernst Gradwohl was the driver of a Volkswagen Cabrio that witnesses said drifted across three lanes of I-94 and landed in a ditch at about 9:30 a.m.

"The vehicle went off the road and into the ditch, then eventually running into the bridge abutment for the Zeeb Road overpass," according to a statement.

It is unclear what caused the car to drift across the lanes and no other vehicle appears to have been involved.

Passing motorists stopped to pull Gradwohl, 51, out of the car, which was engulfed in flames by this time. After numerous attempts to revive Gradwohl with CPR by motorists, state police troopers and deputies from Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department, he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Heidi Hansen, who was traveling to a business meeting in Saline from her home in Charlotte, stopped at the scene moments after she said three motorists had pulled Gradwohl from the vehicle. The chiropractor said she administered CPR for a few minutes until officers from the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office arrived and took over.

Gradwohl's car exploded several times while bystanders and first responders administered care, Hansen said.

"Those three guys were awesome because they had no idea what they were doing, they just went there, pulled him out and got him away," she said.

Gradwohl was an internal medicine doctor within the University of Michigan Health System. He also was a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine.

Preliminary investigation and witness statements indicate he may have lost consciousness for unknown reasons. A medical exam is pending.

The Scio Township Fire Department and Huron Valley Ambulance also assisted on the scene.

Freelance reporter Sven Gustafson contributed to this story.


Chandelle German

Wed, May 22, 2013 : 1:23 a.m.

Dr. Gradwohl was my stepfathers doctor. He is the reason my stepfather moved back to Michigan from Las Vegas. He was a "real" doctor, and cared for his patients. They were not just a paycheck for him. He cared deeply. Nothing can replace a man of this magnitude. I hope these kind words can help heal his family. He will be truly missed by many, and from the other comments that is guaranteed.

Brian Craig

Mon, May 20, 2013 : 4:41 p.m.

My prayers go out to Steve's family. He was more than a great doctor, he was a great friend. He will be missed.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 1:46 p.m.

Dr Gradwohl was my doctor. He truly cared about my health. He was a a good man who helped me in many ways. This is sad news. -Ryan Nagle

Lon Horwedel

Mon, May 20, 2013 : 1:04 p.m.

I was coaching my son in a baseball tourney this weekend and my wife waited to tell me of Steve's death until this morning. I'm glad she waited because it would have ruined my entire weekend. Wow ... just wow. I was going to call him this morning to set up our annual physical. I can't even believe he's gone. What a great, great guy. Every comment on this page is 100% spot on. He wasn't just a great doctor, he was a great human being. Man, I still can't get over it.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 12:25 p.m.

He was my Doctor, and has been responsible for my good health for almost 20 years. I'll truly miss him and his thoughtful care as a physician and I can honestly say, as a friend. We shared an interest in theatre performance, which was frequently a topic during my visits to Steven at Briarwood Medical. My heart and prayers go out to Dr. Gradwohl's family.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 3:19 a.m.

When I heard the news about Dr. Gradwohl while doing yard work Sunday afternoon, I had to rush to my computer to verify the news. I just could not believe it. Dr. Gradwohl had been my Dr. for 7 years. He was a great doctor. I miss him already. My recent appointment with him I had I wish I hadn't so I could have seen him one more time. There is no way to replace such a talented person as a Dr. and confidant. I wish his family all the best.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 12:05 a.m.

What an enormous loss. Dr. Gradwohl was truly one of a kind. My heart aches for his family and all those whose lives he touched. You will be missed seg.


Sun, May 19, 2013 : 9:49 p.m.

I just returned from a two month administrative leave to Jiangnan University in China May 1 and I was most excited, of all people, to see my long time friend "Dr. Steve" for my Birthday check-up at the end of May to discuss the trip, life and the usual things Dr. Steve and I talked about. I am so, so sad that my birthday is so late in the month and that I missed speaking with my friend, just one last time. I am sure I will find a person to hold a stethoscope to my broken heart, an otoscope to look into my teary eyes, may be even someone with that special wink in his/her eye when they reached for their gloves for that enviable old man portion of the exam, but I will never-ever again receive an email from "SEG" giving me news or advice about my health, never again shake his hand as he comes into the examining room with his own special smile and call me - buddy! I cannot remember when I have ever been more saddened and heart-broken. Recently, he won a very deserved award from the U of MI and I was totally taken aback to learn that all my friends, colleague and fellow faculty members were also his patients. The Dean of the Medical School called him the "Drs' Dr." We all called him our friend. I will truly miss my friend and physician Dr. Steven E. Gradwahl. I wish his family peace and solace in this their darkest hour. I hope knowing how many people Steve's life touched and how many people also loved him will someway bring them some small comfort. Rest in peace my friend.


Sun, May 19, 2013 : 9:11 p.m.

Left speechless by the news. As a person and physician, he was amazing and always went above and beyond. He was one of the best physicians I have ever known. Was my primary doc for two decades and helped me through some very complex health situations -- even while navigating his own. My condolences to his family.

Della DiPietro

Sun, May 19, 2013 : 7:38 p.m.

My husband and I were blessed to have Steve as our doctor for many years. He gave his all - always accessible by email, always fully present and listening carefully in his office (no matter how busy he was), always a rare mixture of caring, professionalism and knowledge, and an absolute stand for health and living life to the fullest. Above all, he gave his heart - and you never felt he was above you, but with you on the journey for health and well-being. We are saddened and struggling to accept his leaving us, his family and his profession too soon.


Sun, May 19, 2013 : 7:24 p.m.

The sudden sad news of the car crash and the death of Dr. Steven Ernst Gradwohl my primary care physician came like a thunderbolt to me .It is hard to imagine that the life of a talented and dedicated physician is cut short by this terrible crash. A sweet soul has departed from our Ann Arbor community. I was under his care for the last four years. His diagnosis, management and treatment plan was so superb that I was healthy ever since. He is very kind and gentle. He has lot of patience in listening to the concerns on phone also and call back after reviewing. Rendered a great service. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends. May his soul rest in peace with everlasting joy in heaven. " I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making requests for you all with joy, being confident of this very thing that he who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." Philippians 1:3,4. We love you Dr. Gradwohl and miss your tender compassionate care. We will always remember you. Thank you and I express my heartfelt gratitude for your beautiful service. God Bless you


Sun, May 19, 2013 : 7:15 p.m.

Steve was my physician for over twenty years, and the ultimate one at that. His care, expertise, guidance, and accessibility was something I was very fortunate to experience. I will always be grateful and appreciative that I knew Steve Gradwohl. And, I will miss him very much.

Mark Salke

Sun, May 19, 2013 : 7:13 p.m.

Prayers for his family.


Sun, May 19, 2013 : 4:55 p.m.

Steve was like a second father to me. His death is one that is almost impossible to accept. He didn't only heal people at work as a doctor but also at home as a friend. All of us who knew him hold our memories of him close and will forever. He was so loving and fun and always knew how to make us smile when we were little and for many of us helped us with planning for the future as we grew to be high school and college students. There is so much that one could say about him, and the stories are endless. I loved him very much and will miss him with all my heart as I know many others do now as well.

Jay Allen

Sun, May 19, 2013 : 4:50 p.m.

I knew Steve not only as a doctor, but I had the pleasure of playing softball with him for years up until he decided to retire. This is tragic. My thoughts and condolences are with his family.

Ron Pudduck

Sun, May 19, 2013 : 3:54 p.m.

To Steve, my very close friend, doctor, fellow competitor and wonderful human being in every way----- We love you with all our heart and will always have you with us in our mind and heart for the rest of our lives! The world will seem empty without you there to share our love for each other. We will always miss you, my wonderful friend! Pat & Ron Pudduck


Sun, May 19, 2013 : 2:33 p.m.

Very sad news!Steve has been my doctor and friend for 15 years.My daughter Tia coached his daughter in field hockey.He was genuine caring rare man.He will truly be missed,and never forgotten.My condolences to the family.


Sun, May 19, 2013 : 2:18 p.m.

DR. Gradwohl treated me and many other family members over the years and he was always an amazing doctor to work with. He exemplified all that any doctor should aspire to be. For me, he personally called with lab results even if it was late at night... he responded to emails with advice on how to proceed with an issue ...and if he knew you had a problem and the "system" would not let you see him he always found a way to fit you into his schedule. Dr. Gradwohl was an amazing doctor and amazing person. My son is just starting medical school and wants to go into family practice and I fervently hope that he will follow Dr. Gradwohl's lead in how to do it the right way. It is truly a sad day for all of Ann Arbor but for those of us who knew Steve we have been truly blessed and perhaps we can honor him by helping others the way he helped us


Sun, May 19, 2013 : 12:13 p.m.

I'm extremely saddened by this news. I spent many hours on the racquetball court with Steve and he was a fierce competitor and a great guy to be around. He only had one speed and it was '11'.


Sun, May 19, 2013 : 11:52 a.m.

I am proud to say that I knew Steve and echo the statements so many others have made. He was a terrific person. I am also proud and humbled to know one of the men who tried to save him, courageously and selflessly. The convergence of the distress of a terribly sad event with the inspiration that comes from a heroic and giving act is jarring. I pray for comfort for everyone involved.


Sun, May 19, 2013 : 11:41 a.m.

Thoughts and prayers with the first responders and civilian good Samaritans as well as they were there fighting so hard to save this person they didn't even know. May you find peace in your efforts and live every moment to the fullest.


Sun, May 19, 2013 : 11:57 a.m.

As I said below, I actually know both the victim and the first motorist to stop and help. They didn't know each other, but my friend didn't hesitate to do everything he could, as you say, to save the life of stranger. Thank you for thinking of the helpers, the cliché rings true that good Samaritans give me hope for the human race. Some solace in this tragedy.

Candis Stern

Sun, May 19, 2013 : 10:38 a.m.

He was my internist and my husband's. I absolutely adored him. He was a very genuine human being;, always professional yet also caring. He kept to his schedule -- a rarity in medicine today. You never felt he was rushing to get your appointment completed. My heart goes out to his wife and family!


Sun, May 19, 2013 : 4:14 a.m.

I only knew Steve on a non-professional level ... as racquetball partners and opponents, both equally respected and sought out. I heard he had gone through some surgeries recently but haven't seen him for months. Steve was definitely a high-level type of person who will be missed on different levels. My condolences to his family.


Sun, May 19, 2013 : 4:09 a.m.

I was fortunate enough to know this man a little. I would sit in the stands with him from time to time at the Field Hockey games at Huron. He would always come to the games eating popcorn and he would always offer to share some with me. He would make all of us laugh when he would pick on the ref's a little bit in a good spirited way. He loved watching his daughter play and was very proud of her. He was a very good guy and he will be missed. My family and I are shocked and our heart goes out to his family.


Sun, May 19, 2013 : 4 a.m.

A brilliant mind gone--so sad.


Sun, May 19, 2013 : 3:30 a.m.

I was driving westbound and passed the scene probably about 20 or thirty seconds after it happened. A minivan was pulled over and a person was getting out. I saw the cabrio smashed into the bridge column. The windshield was pretty much up to the column and the front of the car was kind of wrapped around it. The air bag was deployed, and the driver was seated with his head laying to the left. The car was so smashed up, I doubt he felt a thing. He must have been doing at least over 50 the way the car was smashed. RIP.


Sun, May 19, 2013 : 3:19 a.m.

Tremendous loss to the Ann Arbor community. A father, doctor, actor in local theater, friend, good neighbor, Michigan Man. May his family find solace in knowing how many people Steve touched in his (way too) brief life.

John Simon

Sun, May 19, 2013 : 3:09 a.m.

Around 9:30, I drove onto the entrance to i94, where there were 3 police cars and about 10 cars pulled over, more following. Everyone was in the ditch giving cpr to a man. As I drove onto the highway, it was clear that the car did indeed crash into the cement pillar of the bridge, flames shooting up. Many police cars passed going the opposite direction.

Greg Shea

Sun, May 19, 2013 : 2:57 a.m.

This is very upsetting. Steve was a terrific guy and a great doctor. He had a tremendous impact on my family. I am sick about this for his family. My thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to them. May they find some peace in this tragedy. (sigh) GS

Kevin Maloney

Sun, May 19, 2013 : 2:56 a.m.

I drove by this unfortunate accident this morning a few minutes after it happened. The car had obviously run into foundation of the bridge hard enough to compress the front end quite a bit. The car was engulfed in flames shooting ten feet in the air. When I went by there was one police vehicle on the scene. Fortunately I didn't see the victim, but I noticed a few people down on one knee with their heads bowed and I assumed the worst.


Sun, May 19, 2013 : 2:47 a.m.

I am shocked and saddened to see this! What a wonderful man and lovely family. My thoughts are with you.

average joe

Sun, May 19, 2013 : 2:30 a.m.

Steve was my doctor for the last 20 years, and in addition to being an awesome physician, he was a great friend as well. The U of M has lost a tremendous asset to it's staff. He will be missed.


Sun, May 19, 2013 : 2:28 a.m.

Tragic news. I have interacted with him before and he was very professional and likable. My condolences to his family and to the people who worked closely with him at UMHS. Also, he will certainly be missed by his patients.

Matt Cooper

Sun, May 19, 2013 : 1:04 a.m.

Condolences to Dr. Gradwohl's family. He had treated me a few times over the years and was a good man and a good doctor. He will be missed by the medical community.


Sun, May 19, 2013 : 12:23 a.m.

Sorry to hear this. Saw Steve at the gym quite often...nice guy. I didn't know him well but one time in the locker room he actually looked at my leg and diagnosed poison ivy -- correctly. My condolences to Steve's family.


Sun, May 19, 2013 : 12:04 a.m.

"According to the story, Steven Ernst Gradwohl, was the driver of a Volkswagen Cabrio that witnesses said drifted across three lanes of I-94 and landed in a ditch at about 9:30 a.m." I read in comments that a witness said the car collided with the bridge. Was there any information related to that released?

Sam S Smith

Sat, May 18, 2013 : 11:48 p.m.

Special thoughts and prayers for Dr. Gradwohl, his family and friends!