PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) - Portage police told 24 Hour News 8 they think the driver that caused a deadly chain reaction crash on Monday night was having a medical episode.
Portage police received a call around 5 p.m. that a van was driving erratically in the eastbound lanes of I-94 from U.S. 131.
By the time police caught up with the driver, the van had already exited the highway at Portage Road where it struck a stationary vehicle, which then struck a motorcycle.
The driver of that motorcycle, 66-year-old David Pease of Kalamazoo, was pronounced dead at the scene. He was wearing a helmet, police said.
Pease's family told 24 Hour News 8 over the phone Tuesday that his death was obviously a shock and they're doing "as well as can be expected." Family told 24 Hour News 8 that at the time of the crash, Pease was getting ready to take his aunt and uncle to their 72nd wedding anniversary celebration.
They would not comment on reports that the man who caused the crash may have had a medical event.
At the time of the crash, the as-yet-unnamed driver was behind the wheel of a company van that belonged to Commercial Business Services out of Kalamazoo.
The driver's boss, Mark Davis, told 24 Hour News 8 what the driver said happened.
"He was coming off the interstate and realized he was bearing into another lane and the next thing he knew, he had hit another vehicle," said Davis.
The man who caused the wreck has worked for Davis for more than a year.
"He's a very good employee, very dependable," said Davis. "Courteous, respectful of others."
Davis said the driver was drug tested and had a background check before he ever drove a company vehicle. Davis said he didn't know of any prior medical condition the employee may have had.
When he spoke with 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday, Davis said his employee was still in the hospital and did not yet know that the crash cost a man his life.
"He will be beside himself," said Davis. "He is not a malicious type of person. He would not purposely do anything that would harm anybody else."
A Portage police lieutenant said the agency does not yet know for sure that a medical incident was main cause of the wreck, but that the agency sees several such cases each year.
An emergency room doctor at Bronson Hospital told 24 hour News 8 that people can have medical emergencies out of the blue -- but it is fairly rare.
"There's always a first time and there's always random people that will just pass out," said Dr. Ryan Seim. "Especially when we see it in the summer, people are getting dehydrated. They're just passing out."
Seim said sometimes people may get some warning symptoms immediately before a sudden medical problem, like feeling weak, light-headed or sweaty. But sometimes, he said, there is no warning.
"Sometimes syncope, which is passing out, happens without any warning symptoms and you can get syncope form multiple reasons," said Seim. "Those patients don't have much warning at all and that is a little scary."
Seim said the best thing to do is to be cognizant of previous medical conditions. And even if you don't have a previous condition, pay attention to your body -- especially before you get behind the wheel.
Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call the Portage Department of Public Safety at 269.329.4567 or Silent Observer at 269.343.2100.
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