MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) - One person died and eight others were injured in a crash involving up to 20 vehicles on U.S. 31 near Sherman Boulevard in Muskegon.
The crash happened around 10 a.m. Tuesday, and Michigan State Police told 24 Hour News 8 that one person was pinned in their vehicle under a semi-truck. That section of U.S. 31 was closed for several hours.
Employees at Muskegon Brake and Tire told 24 Hour News 8 the victim in the crash is business owner 58-year-old Robert Jefferson Cutler, whom Muskegon police later confirmed.
Cutler was the only occupant of his vehicle, according to Muskegon police, and pronounced dead at a hospital after the wreck.
Eight people were taken to Mercy Health Partners after the crash. One person was critically injured, six were treated and released, and one is in fair condition.
The pileup happened as road conditions were icy due to temperatures at or below zero. Investigators told 24 Hour News 8 they are not sure if the weather conditions were the main reason behind the crash but "it certainly didn't help."
David Ramos, who owns Ramos & Sons Auto Body, said one of his drivers described the scene as "chaos."
"We don't want anybody hurt. That's not what we're in it for," he said. "It's always sad when you see people who are injured and see the effects of accidents."
The investigation into the crash continues.
Michigan State Police advise anyone caught in a similar pileup to drive their vehicle off the highway if possible. And even if your vehicle won't drive, stay in it.
"If someone else loses control and you're outside of your vehicle and you get struck versus still being in you car, seat belt on and you get hit, chances of injury are obviously much less," said Sgt. Scott Wilber.
Cutler was known by many in Muskegon and will be dearly missed.
He was actively involved in his community and recently took on the challenge of preparing for a local "Dancing with the Stars" event. The event, which is set for February, supports local food pantries. His dance partner Lisa Jirikovic was shocked and devastated when she got word of his death.
"I was heartbroken because this is a man that we will all miss. Everybody who's known him loves him," she said. "He is just that kind of a person that he's going to leave a legacy because of all that he has done for people in this community."
The Cutler family released this statement Tuesday evening:
Our family tonight is mourning the loss of Bob Cutler, a husband, father, grandfather, community leader and businessman. He was devoted to his family and to the Muskegon community, where he lived and worked for most of his 58 years.
Bob was a larger-than-life personality, enthusiastic about the world and passionate about family, friends, work and the community. He was a car enthusiast who loved to ski, boat and spend time with his wife, children and grandchildren. To paraphrase the words of Thoreau, he wanted to suck every drop out of life.
He leaves behind a devoted wife, Jeanne, who was the love of his life, best friend and business partner. Mourning his loss are their three children, Andrew (Samantha), Justin (Stephanie) and Meggan (Trevor) Dyer, and five grandchildren.
We are still in shock over the accident that claimed Bob's life today. We ask that you respect the privacy of the family at this most difficult of times and allow us to grieve in private.
Funeral services are still pending at this time. Arrangements will be made through the Lee Chapel of the Sytsema Funeral Home in Muskegon.
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