Detroit, MI Pickup And Auto Crash, Jul 1998



Detroit - A 23-year-old Detroit man could face murder charges at an arraignment today after his pickup slammed into a car Sunday morning, killing a Canadian family of five. Police say he had been speeding and driving drunk.
Investigators said the driver, whose name was not released, was over the alcohol legal limit of 0.10. "He was drunk. It was pretty clear-cut what happened," said Detroit Police Officer Bernard Snarski.
The crash happened about 2 a.m. Sunday, when the family, from Courtright, Ontario, was stopped at a red light on eastbound 8 Mile near Hoover. Police said the family - a mother, father, son, daughter and the daughter's infant son - were returning from an Ohio wedding.
"They were such a loving family," said Danielle Mayhew, a cook at the Courtright Tavern. "I'm still devastated. I've had a heck of a time working today."
Mayhew, 25, said the Wilson family is well known in tiny Courtright, which has about 500 people. She has known the children, MARK and ALICEA WILSON, since she was 5.
She said their father, RICHARD, was chief of the town's volunteer fire department and owned Wilson's Gravel Dock in town.
Also killed were RICHARD'S wife, BONNIE WILSON and ALICEA WILSON'S 3-year-old son ANDREW.
Lorene Sharp, BONNIE WILSON'S mother, was deeply distraught as she spoke of the tragedy from her Courtright home late Sunday.
"It's wiped out my family," she said. "It's pretty awful when you're stopped at a red light and somebody kills you."
She said she wants the people of Detroit to "see that that guy gets what he deserves."
The driver was treated for a minor knee injury in Detroit Receiving Hospital and was in police custody Sunday.
Authorities were not certain why the family was on 8 Mile, but Courtright is near Sarnia, and the family could have been heading toward Port Huron to cross at the Blue Water Bridge.
According to a witness, the pickup was going 60 to 70 m.p.h. when it rear-ended the car. The impact propelled the car about 60 feet and ruptured the gas tank, police said. They suspect that leaking gas fumes, plus sparks from the vehicle, ignited a fire.
Two people in another vehicle on 8 Mile tried to free the trapped family but the doors were jammed, police said.
Other passersby searched for something to use to break the glass of the car, but also could not free the family.
According to records from the Secretary of State's Office, the pickup driver had eight previous speeding tickets dating from 1992 but only seven points now on his record. In Michigan, a driver must accumulate 12 points within a two-year period before a license can be restricted or suspended, said Liz Boyd, spokeswoman for the office.
The suspect is to be arraigned today in Detroit's 36th District Court. Police said he could face a number of possible charges, including, manslaughter or second-degree murder.

Detroit Free Press Michigan 1998-07-13