BERLIN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Investigators have backed off initial suspicions that a deadly crash on I-96 was the result of road rage.
Leslie Pablo-Matias, 20, died after the Sunday afternoon crash on I-96 west of Jordan Lake Road, officials said. Investigators say the Wyoming woman was speeding westbound when she lost control of her SUV, which rolled and crashed into a tree.
Initially, the Ionia County Sheriff’s Office said a witness led them to believe that the crash may have been the result of road rage. But after investigating further, authorities said they no longer suspect that was the case.
Monday afternoon, officers said distracted driving and speeding were the two more likely contributors to the crash.
Ionia County Sheriff’s Sgt. Andrew Bucholtz said investigators found evidence that Pablo-Matias was using her cellphone, potentially inputting information into a GPS app on the phone when the crash happened. He says crash investigators suspect she was traveling roughly 80 or 90 mph.
Sheriff’s officials say they believe Pablo-Matias was trying to avoid hitting another vehicle when she over-corrected, veered off the road and crashed. She died at the scene.
“We want people to understand the risks — for them to see something out of somebody else’s tragedy,” Bucholtz said. “We all have lives and we want to make sure we get to them. Taking your eyes off the road or slowing down a little bit can make the difference whether or not you make it there.”
Rey Hernandez attended Grand River Preparatory High School in Grand Rapids with Pablo-Matias. He says she will be remembered as a passionate Christian.
“It’s crazy just how fast something can happen just out of the blue. She was just driving and boom – the end of her life,” Hernandez said. “She was very positive – never had anything wrong to say about anybody. She kept her attitude very humble and she was a very tender person.”
An initial news release from the sheriff’s office stated authorities were looking for a white Honda Accord. That remains the case as they believe that person could be a key witness to the crash.
Anyone with information about the crash is asked to call the sheriff’s office at 616.527.5737 or Silent Observer at 616.527.0107.