CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — It is an announcement every school leader dreads, but one West Michigan Aviation Academy CEO Pat Cwayna had to make Thursday morning.
The night before, 14-year-old Andy Larson, who would have been a freshman at the school, was killed when the van he was a passenger in was struck from behind on US-131 north of Grand Rapids.
“You speak from your heart and you are honest, but sometimes there are no words.” Cwyana described having to tell his staff of the death. “It’s just so painful for the family and the friends and the school community. It’s just painful.”
Michigan State Police are handling the investigation into the crash on northbound US-131 near West River Drive. They say a driver crashed into the back of the Larsons’ Honda minivan, sending it into a third vehicle. The minivan then left the roadway, clipped a sign and travelled several yards before stopping.
The crash happened amid a backup caused by construction on US-131 and fans headed to a baseball game at Fifth Third Ballpark. Those factors have investigators focusing in on distracted driving on the part of the driver that hit the van, though they aren’t ruling out any possible causes yet.
The at-fault driver’s name is not being released pending the outcome of the investigation.
“We look into everything, but we know that many times, not just this accident here, but the because of many of these accidents we see in these construction zones or areas where traffic is backed up is because of distractions in the car,” MSP 1st Lt. Chris McIntire.
“The problems is that you’ll see traffic stopped, and then it goes and then it stops so quickly again people think they have time now to check that text message, check that email. There certainly isn’t time. Put it down. It can wait till you get home,” McIntire continued.
Along with talking to the drivers involved and witnesses, McIntire said investigators will look at other evidence to help determine what happened.
“We certainly have tools we can use, through subpoena powers, to find out phone information. Obviously we can find out what happened in the car through the black box the time of impact, if there was braking, if there wasn’t braking,” he said.
Andy Larson began orientation at the academy last week. It’s the same school his older sister attends.
“He made the soccer team. He never made a team before. He told his parents, ‘I’m so excited to go to school next week. I’ve never been this excited in my life to start school,'” Cwayna said. “He was a deeply faithful young man. And the family is as well. And that will sustain them at this time.”
Cwayna said the school made counselors available to the group of classmates who were attending orientation with Andy.
Andy’s father is Dr. Eric Larson, an anesthesiologist at Spectrum Health hospitals, his webpage says. His mother is Dr. Marcy Larson, a pediatrician at Forest Hills Pediatrics, the company website says.