By Kelli Ameling, Daily News staff writer, and Elisabeth Waldon, Daily News news editor
MONTCALM TOWNSHIP– Two Michigan State Police officers were injured in a three-vehicle accident Thursday morning at the intersection of M-91 and Sidney Road.
Lt. Commander Kevin Sweeney, who oversees Michigan State Police posts in Gratiot, Ionia and Montcalm counties, was injured in the crash, along with Trooper Jim Thompkins. The two men were on patrol together.
The crash happened at 9:27 a.m.
According to Michigan State Police Trooper Kelly Linebaugh, the police cruiser and a silver van were stopped at the traffic light in the northbound lane of M-91. A black van, driven by a 48-year-old woman from the St. Joseph area, was traveling northbound on M-91 and crashed into the back of the police cruiser, sending the cruiser into a silver van, driven by Margarito Saltzar of Lake Odessa.
“The driver (of the black van) was distracted,” said Linebaugh, adding that the female driver was reaching for an object in the vehicle.
The female driver’s name has not yet been released.
Saltzar and the female driver of the black van were examined by Montcalm County Emergency Medical Services at the scene, but neither one was taken to the hospital.
Salzter’s vehicle contained a passenger who was also not injured.
Sweeney and Thompkins were both transported to Spectrum Health United Hospital in Greenville, where they were treated for minor injuries and released. Their police cruiser is considered a total loss.
Assistant Commander Lt. Brody Boucher said Sweeney and Thompkins will miss several days of work while recovering from their injuries.
“They were on patrol,” Boucher said “They were just sitting at the stop light waiting for it to change.
“We drive, we average about 25,000 miles per year on the job,” Boucher added. “The likelihood that we’ll be involved in a traffic crash while working is very high compared to normal citizens. We’re just thankful that they weren’t standing outside their vehicle when the accident happened.”
Sweeney became commander of the Michigan State Police posts in Gratiot, Ionia and Montcalm counties in March.
The Montcalm Township Fire Department assisted at the scene for traffic control. Fire Chief Clif Dickinson shut down Sidney Road at Fitzner Road, but reopened the road just before 10:30 a.m.
Lori Kropewniski of Howard City witnessed the accident. She was stopped at the red light while southbound on M-91.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Kropewniski said. “The black van never slowed down.”
The Montcalm County Sheriff’s Office, Advance Life Medical Service and Captain Hook assisted at the scene.
Police are continuing to investigate the accident and will forward their report to the Montcalm County Prosecutor’s Office.