GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A man was hit and killed on US-131 in Grand Rapids late Thursday night after getting out of his car with his kids when it ran out of gas, police say. The children were unharmed.
Family identified the man who was killed as Dewayne Smith, 49, of Grand Rapids.
The crash happened before 11 p.m. Thursday on northbound US-131 at Wealthy Street in Grand Rapids. Michigan State Police believe that Smith’s vehicle ran out of gas before he got out of the vehicle with his children, ages 5 and 7, and walked them to the east shoulder of northbound US-131. Police previously said he had walked his children to the median, but they since changed their story. Smith then tried to go back to the car that was on the Wealthy Street on-ramp to US-131 and was hit by a northbound vehicle. MSP said he died at the scene.
“This is a sorrowful reminder that if your vehicle becomes disabled on the freeway, please stay inside your vehicle until help arrives,” MSP said in a tweet.
Bruce Dieterle, president and CEO of Michigan Wheel, told News 8 that Smith had worked for the propeller manufacturer for about two years and everyone loved him.
“Dewayne knew everybody, wall to wall. You can walk back there and ask any of our 85 employees, they will know exactly who you’re talking about,” Dieterle said. “We’re getting through it, but it’s been really emotional. We’re 85 people… Everybody’s really close and when you’ve got an infectious soul that was bigger than life like Dewayne, it goes without words. It’s just hard to breathe today.”
Dieterle and Smith’s loved ones said he was often compared to Dave Chappelle.
“Not only just in his tone but in his staccato and the whole thing,” Dieterle said. “When you heard it, you can’t forget it and then you couldn’t help but laugh because what’s running through your head is Dave Chappelle.”
He said there was an “eerie silence” at the workplace Friday, with everyone feeling down.
“He carried that light, energy in every single friendship he had here. Everybody loved him, and he was just a great, great human,” Dieterle said.
A GoFundMe account has been created to support Smith’s family.
—News 8’s Susan Samples contributed to this report.
*Correction: A previous version of this article included images from the incorrect crash scene. We regret the error, which has been fixed.