A Michigan teen is dead after his pickup truck collided head-on with a semi in Granger, just hours before he was set to graduate from high school.
The crash happened around 4:30 a.m. Sunday on S.R. 23 near Adams Road, just south of the Michigan state line.
A tanker truck carrying about 8,000 gallons of fuel was heading northbound on the road when 18-year-old James Reeder, of
Reeder crossed the center line in his pickup and hit the oncoming semi in front of Granger Missionary Church.
The collision caused the semi's fuel tanks to rupture. The cab portion of the truck burst into flames and was nearly destroyed by fire.
“Our crews got here and began to immediately extinguish it, keeping the fire off the tank,” said Clay Fire Territory Chief John Vance. “If that tank would have caught on fire, we would have had completely different set of problems out here, but luckily we were able to contain it to the tractor portion of the truck.”
The driver of the semi, 43-year-old Troy Massey of Coloma, was treated at a South Bend hospital for back pain and minor facial injuries.
Reeder was pronounced dead at the scene as a result of massive blunt force trauma caused by the crash. The teen was a senior at Lawrence High School and was scheduled to participate in graduation ceremonies Saturday afternoon.
“My heart just breaks to know that this kid was ready to graduate today and really ready to start his life and now it's over,” said Granger Missionary Church Pastor Earl Smith.
Reeder’s unexpected death cast a somber shadow over what was supposed to be a celebratory day at Lawrence High School in Michigan.
Classmates and teachers wore black patches on their clothing in honor of Reeder, who was a popular athlete and would have graduated with honors.
“When we read his name, it was a standing ovation,” said Superintendent John Overley. “Everybody in the crowd got up and was clapping for him, wishing he was here.”
St. Joseph County police are still trying to determine what caused the crash.
A portion of S.R. 23 was closed for several hours Sunday as they investigated and cleaned up debris.
Toxicology tests were performed on both drivers, which is standard procedure in any fatal crash investigation. It could take several weeks to return.