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Posted on Tue, Sep 6, 2011 : 6:23 p.m.

Chelsea High School cross country teams to suspend running at dark after accident

By Kyle Feldscher

Runners from the Chelsea High School cross country teams will put a halt to training along area roads in the predawn or post-sunset hours after a traffic accident involving two runners on Friday.

Two cross country team members were struck by a vehicle early Friday morning at Old US-12 and Freer Road, one of whom was taken to University of Michigan Health System Trauma Center with serious injuries. The second student was treated but released after suffering less serious injuries, according to school officials.

Chelsea School District superintendent Dave Killips said the district is looking into the “process and protocols” that were in use by the Chelsea cross country team on Friday. It is common practice for the team to run during the predawn hours in order to train for competitions.

“We have halted any running on the roads pre-sunrise and post-sunset,” Killips said. “So, we have done that while we look into the process and protocols to provide as much safety as possible.”

Killips said there is no timetable on the investigation. He said there were few details that the school could release and it would be up to police to determine the cause of the accident.

He said school officials will continue to talk with students about the incident, along with the team’s coaches — including boy’s cross country head coach Eric Swager, athletic director Mike Kapolka and school administrators who were working at the time of the accident.

Chelsea police are also doing their own investigation, which is expected to take a number of weeks.

Chief Ed Toth said Tuesday that he could offer no updates on the accident and that a police report may not be available for months.

“We’re interviewing 20 some possible witnesses,” he said. “It’s still under investigation, at least for three or four more weeks.”

Chelsea principal Julie Deppner said on Friday that all medical updates on the student who was seriously injured in the crash would have to come from family members. Neither school officials nor police have identified that student.

A report in the Chelsea Standard from Friday stated the student suffered two broken legs, a broken elbow and a closed head injury. The report went on to state he had displayed feelings of pain, which the report stated was a good sign.

Swager and Kapolka did not return messages seeking comment for this story on Tuesday. Deppner was not immediately available to comment. Students returned to the district’s schools for the first day of classes on Tuesday.

Killips said the district’s immediate focus was to get school up and running in the smoothest way possible after the accident.

“It’s a very unfortunate accident that took place,” he said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with this young man and his family.”

Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Sat, Sep 10, 2011 : 2:34 p.m.

Yes I dropped off my child before 6 at practice and as mentioned I feel terrible not thinking about any reflective clothing for safety. What was told to me by my child was very upsetting for me of what happened. I am almost in tears writing this in hope for recovery for the injured child with this being very close for being my own child and by my child seeing this of course is very disturbed. Was the driver ticketed for running a red light at a cross section??


Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 5:37 p.m.

Until the investigation is completed and released, we won't know if the driver ran a red light or was ticketed, or if the team crossed on a no-crossing signal, or if the kid was shoved into the street by his peers as a joke. We just don't know what the specfics are, so let's not assume that we do. For now, let's just keep everyone involved in our prayers. I just can't imagine being in the shoes of any of the people a coach, I can't imagine having one of my kids getting seriously injured while in my care - could I have prevented it? As a parent, I can't imagine getting that phone call along with the months (years?) of helping my child recover. And as a driver I can't imagine hitting a child and living with the replay, and the "what if's". I pray for all of these people every day, and hope that they all can find healing, peace, and closure.


Sat, Sep 10, 2011 : 2:01 p.m.

The bus drivers at CHS are on the radio to each other and dispatch (all radio transmissions are monitored by the school administration) pretty much every day to keep each other updated about runners from school teams and random single runners running in the dark, rain and other low visability conditions. I'ts been going on for years and has alway been dangerous.


Wed, Sep 7, 2011 : 10:28 p.m.

I don't understand why two young people had to be struck by vehicles for someone to review the practice of running on public streets in low light conditions.


Wed, Sep 7, 2011 : 7:46 p.m.

Hindsight is indeed 20/20. A student's safety needs to always come first. Even if it turns out that this terrible accident had nothing to do with the time of day and the amount of light or lack thereof, why add risk? Bottom line, the decision to not run in the dark is a good one. It takes away one factor (of many) when running on public roads. The community needs to come together right now.


Wed, Sep 7, 2011 : 6:59 p.m.

My son was on the Chelsea track team which had morning practices twice a week (before 6 a.m.). Reflective clothing was never discussed or required. I feel very stupid now, not to mention sad and horrified, not to have thought of this. I somehow (stupidly) thought the school had it under control. Parents: Talk to your kids about safety, don't assume anyone else has already done so. I'm a very safety conscious mother, and this could easily have been my child in the hospital now. I am praying for that boy.


Fri, Sep 9, 2011 : 4:57 p.m.

I have to support kaycc on this one. My student participated in track as well, and I regularly dropped them off for 6 am practice this past spring. You caan call it whatever you want to, but when a coach/official of the school is present and participating, it is a practice. As with the rest of the Chelsea community, our family continues to pray for the young athletes full recovery.

Mike Holik

Fri, Sep 9, 2011 : 12:35 p.m.

Just to clarify kaycc - your son never had track practice twice a week before 6AM at Chelsea. Thank you for your continued prayers.


Wed, Sep 7, 2011 : 4:11 p.m.

My thoughts and prayers are with this young man and his family. Blame doesn't FIX anything, more investigation is necessary.


Wed, Sep 7, 2011 : 3:55 p.m.

Regardless of all this speculation, I hope these kids are ok and back running again soon. This is a shame...when weather is so hot it makes sense to train early and late to avoid the heat. Accidents can happen. I'm sure we all would like this not to deter future cross-country runners from participating as well as those that do it just for health and fitness reasons. Please follow this boy's condition and report when or if there are any changes.


Wed, Sep 7, 2011 : 2:38 p.m.

Ricebrnr is so very correct in the post above. Running in the dark without reflective gear is a recipe for disaster. Before anyone starts up the flame throwers and mentions that the facts are not known regarding whether or not this type of gear was being used, don't you think officials from the school would go out of their way to point this out if this were the case.? I agree with letting the investigation play itself out, but if I were coaching any CC team anywhere in the state, I would similarly not have organized practices in the dark. First, it is unecessary (anyone who claims otherwise is kidding themselves) and second, MHSAA will need to review and advise - it will be banned I predict; no need to take a risk like that. Third, ADs at schools in the area should review and revise (or create) policies so that his doesn't happen in their communities. Still could have happened anyway, but why take the risk?

Macabre Sunset

Wed, Sep 7, 2011 : 6:23 p.m.

Or maybe they could do their training in a park, like every other sports team? Or maybe they could wear reflective clothing, like everyone else does when walking, biking or running outside when it's dark? We can't protect everyone from everything bad that might happen.


Wed, Sep 7, 2011 : 1:53 p.m.

if you knew me you wouldn't call me names such as "nosy" but rather you would respect the fact that not releasing details is a very unusual circumstance in accidents of this sort. Do you believe that the name of the driver will never become known? Don't bother answering , just think about it. I really don't want to engage in an online debate with you.


Wed, Sep 7, 2011 : 12:57 p.m.

Sorry I disagree. In every tragic incident there are lessons to be learned to prevent such from occurring again. Retro reflective items and clothing are standard safety items for bicyclists and joggers all over the country even where there are plenty of street lights. Our safety services personnel all have them for a reason. We don't need to ascribe negligence on the part of anyone to know that this would've been a good idea to have in low light conditions. In my neighborhood where there are many trees and few lights, I see people running and walking dogs all the time...barely. Waiting for a similar accident to happen there. A line of people all lit up like traffic cones might have made a difference. See example: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> A failure to plan is planning for failure...

chelsea mom

Wed, Sep 7, 2011 : 12:38 p.m.

I am not sure which part of &quot;the investigation is ongoing&quot; doesn't make sense to you....why would they release the details if the investigation is still ongoing? And why would you want to know the name of the driver. For what purpose? This is a TRAGIC accident for all involved! Including the driver!! The kids who are classmates, team mates, the coach! EVERYONE involved! Have some compassion and stop being nosy.


Wed, Sep 7, 2011 : 12:29 p.m.

Why the secrecy about releasing the name of the driver and other details in this tragic accident ?


Wed, Sep 7, 2011 : 10:48 a.m.

Why aren't they wearing reflective vests?


Wed, Sep 7, 2011 : 10:39 a.m.

I live out in the country where the cross country team runs, and I am a runner too. I've observed the team running and the coach is always with them, and they run single file, facing traffic and always seem to be following safety rules. This is a terrible tragedy, but the coaches care very much about their kids and from what I have seen, took the normal precautions for road running. Let's wait for the investigation to be complete before anyone draws any conclusions.


Wed, Sep 7, 2011 : 5:26 a.m.

I spoke to the coach 8 years ago about our concerns about students running in the dark. We had a student running on the team so we were aware of them and looking out for them and noticed how hard they were to see.. We were afraid that drivers who were unaware of the runners would not be able to see students running in the dark and would not be able to swerve or stop in time to avoid the students especially on dirt, hilly roads. Our student was forced to quit the team because the coach insisted that students must run in the dark and we were opposed because we felt the students were too difficult to see in the dark. The students do not wear anything to illuminate themselves. It is a shame it takes a student injury before changes will be made instead of investigating and considering parental concerns.


Wed, Sep 7, 2011 : 10:48 a.m.

Couldn't you have bought a vest for your student?

Pei Huang

Wed, Sep 7, 2011 : 3:17 a.m.

Even in my neighborhood that is filled with trees provides little visibility of the joggers, dog walkers, etc. during dark hours, not to mention when there are many cars with their headlights on. The media should broadcast rules/policy/guideline/etc. about safety on the street during the dark hours. There have been times when I almost hit lovers holding hands walking in the dark. It is easy to forget that not only I, as the walker, need to see cars coming but I also need to be seen by others.


Wed, Sep 7, 2011 : 2:11 a.m.

Did/do any of these runners wear high visibility and retro-reflective clothing on these runs at these times? Is there a rule requiring them?

Kyle Feldscher

Wed, Sep 7, 2011 : 3:20 p.m.

Ricebrnr- I directly asked Dave Killips if the runners were wearing these vests or if there were any other safety precautions taken and his response was that this would be a part of the district's investigation.