A part-time Dowagiac firefighter died Monday morning in a two-vehicle crash on M-43 east of South Haven, and fellow firefighters expressed their shock over the death. James Keys, 31, was a passenger in a Chrysler PT Cruiser that collided with a pickup truck shortly before noon on M-43 near 68th Street, at what is locally called Jericho Corners in Geneva Township.
Keys was pronounced dead at the scene, said state police Trooper Andrew Jeffrey.
"He's an excellent firefighter, and just a great guy," said full-time Dowagiac Firefighter Robert Nelson. "It's just a shock to us here. It's hard. He has three little girls at home."
Firefighters on Monday afternoon converged on the Dowagiac fire station to learn more about the tragic crash and give each other support, Nelson said.
Nelson said Keys was a student at Lake Michigan College in South Haven, and may have been going to or from an emergency medical technician class at LMC at the time of the crash. Keys had been a part-time firefighter for Dowagiac for four years, Nelson said.
It is also believed Keys' wife was with him in the car when the crash occurred, Nelson said, but that could not be immediately verified by state police.
The names of the two drivers in the crash were not immediately available Monday night from state police. Both were injured.
The driver of the truck was not wearing a seat belt and was seriously injured, and was taken to Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, Jeffrey said. The car driver was taken to South Haven's hospital for treatment, he said.
In a news release, Jeffrey said the PT Cruiser was westbound at the six-way Jericho Corners intersection when the driver swerved to avoid a vehicle that had turned in front of the car and lost control. The PT Cruiser went into the eastbound lanes and was struck on the passenger side by the eastbound pickup truck, Jeffrey said.
Written by Stilwell Democrat Journal
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