Thursday, October 29, 2009

Grattan Township woman victim of crash caused by runaway trailer

Grattan Township woman victim of crash caused by runaway trailer

By Brian McVicar The Grand Rapids Press

October 28, 2009, 10:23PM

COURTLAND TOWNSHIP -- Toni Hall was an avid traveler and loving mother of two who got her thrills reeling in bass on Cowan Lake.

The 46-year-old Grattan Township resident often spent hours floating around the lake in her pontoon boat, cracking jokes with friends and family as she waited for just the right fish to nibble on her line.

"If she didn't answer her phone you know she was bringing in the big one," said Wendy Brower, Hall's partner. "She usually went for the big bass."

Hall died Wednesday after a trailer being pulled by a van on 10 Mile Road NE unhooked and collided with Hall's 2006 Mercury Mariner SUV.

A woman passenger in the SUV, 39-year-old Debra Dianne Carter, was treated for non-life-threatening injuries and released from Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital.

A metal pin holding the trailer in place may have come loose or failed, causing the hitch bar that went in the van's towing mechanism to come free and cause the9:24 a.m. crash near Je-Ne-Be Drive NE, the Kent County Sheriff's Department said..

The trailer, hauled behind a full-size van eastbound on 10 Mile Road, was carrying what appeared to be scrap metal. The van's driver, Thomas Edward Dells, 58, of Rockford, was not injured.

When the trailer went airborne, it lifted over a car following Dells' van and hit the westbound Mariner's windshield, with the trailer's tongue going through the glass. The hitch bar was still attached to the tongue of the trailer.

After the trailer struck Hall's SUV, she lost control and the vehicle, which rolled several times before landing upright in the road's south ditch, Kent County Sheriff's Sgt. Steve Dabkowski said.

Debris from the trailer were strewn along the road's north side.

Dabkowski said a report on the incident would be forwarded to the Kent County Prosecutor's Office to see if t any charges or citations are warranted.

Police said they did not find a license plate on the trailer, which appeared to be homemade.

Dells could not be reached for comment..

Brower described Hall as a fun-loving and spontaneous woman always eager to crack a joke and help her friends out.

"At the drop of a hat, she would want to go for a road trip and just get up and go," said Brower, who met Hall at a Grand Rapids Griffins hockey game in November 2007.

"She lived life to the fullest."

Hall managed five rental properties in Greenville and Belding, Brower said.

She had two grown daughters, Stephanie Helder and Tiffany Drye, and five grandchildren.

"Every year for their birthday she would take them to Chuck E. Cheese," Helder said.

"They would beg to stay over at grandma's house."

-- Press staff writer John Tunison contributed to this report.

Posted by runbum03
October 28, 2009, 10:46PM

My condolences to the family and friends.

This story, in my opinion, is too heavy on the details (which almost always seem to later change after a full report is in).

This sort of thing could happen to anyone of us on any given day.

State Police always kept a watchful eye on the scrappers and all of the other configurations on today's roads. We need them back.

Again, my condolences.

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Posted by Kevin Rahe
October 28, 2009, 11:45PM

5 minutes earlier and that could have been my wife and kids that got hit. Still, it's shocking when one of your neighbors gets killed in such a random way - could have been anyone. I'm guessing there was no backup safety attachment of the trailer to the vehicle such as chains/cables, as required by law. If that's true, I'd expect some serious fines and/or charges.

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Posted by Grama7
October 29, 2009, 6:24AM

I hope the owner of the van gets socked with penalties galore. If he has been pulling this trailer before, then he should know the laws governing pulling trailers by using backup safety such as chains, etc. Probably thought he could get away with it. Condolences to the family of the victim.

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Posted by JennaVeeVee25
October 29, 2009, 1:35PM

Toni is my very dear friend whom I love very much and will miss...I just met up with her a week ago to shoot pool and have dinner...and she called me this saturday to spend time with her...I wish I would have...Its sad to lose someone and never be able to tell them how much you love them...I love you Toni and I will never forget what you meant to me..I miss your silly are in my heart...

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Posted by ronmelancon
October 29, 2009, 2:42PM

When you get a moment please say a prayer for the victim. Then go to and note... that this accident could have happened to each and every reader of this posting.

No regulations,, NO training,, no standards,,, for this class of vehicle.

Your state has nothing to charge him with... the most he will be charged with is an $80 fine and an unsecured load. That is it.

Please note that since 1975 over 15,211 lives have been lost by "passenger cars that tow trailers"

It is the lobby and special interest groups that are funded by U Haul and companies like Carry on trailers that have stopped our efforts and the Federal Government from doing anything about this pressing issue.

Please note... every time you are behind one of these trailers... get out of the way!

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