Downstate boy killed while riding on tricycle
So several vacationers at the Lake Leelanau R.V. Park were surprised to be woken by them on Sunday morning. Repeat visitors have turned the park into a community setting, so many were stunned to learn the cause of the sirens.
“I heard the swerve and I heard the grandma wailing. Then I heard the sirens,” said camper Kristen Kenny, of Goodrich. “And then I heard her very angry at someone. I felt that something was terribly wrong.”
Kenny and others at the R.V. park would soon learn that 4-year-old Gavin Punter, who was vacationing with his grandparents, was dead, having been struck by an oncoming vehicle while riding his tricycle on the shoulder of Lake Shore Drive. His grandmother Margaret Punter, who was walking with him, was not injured.
The vehicle was driven by Gertrude Shorter, 62, of Kasson Township. Shorter, who was on her way to work at Bella Fortuna Restaurant, was heading north. Gavin and Punter were walking south on the northbound shoulder of the road, according to Lt. Clint Kerr of the Leelanau County Sheriff’s Office.
Kerr would not comment on Shorter’s status at the time of the accident, but said blood tests taken from Shorter will determine whether she had alcohol or drugs in her system. Results of those tests will not be available for six to seven months, Kerr said.
Chief assistant prosecutor Douglas J. Donaldson said the Prosecutor’s office has several options should it decide to bring charges against Shorter, including manslaughter or negligent homicide. The office will wait until drug tests are completed before determining an action.
“There’s a myriad of choices,” Donaldson said.
Tim Wilson, manager of the R.V. park, was headed to work on Sunday at about 8:30 a.m. The park office opens at 9 a.m.
“I came over a little rise in the hill and when I got over the top I saw people in the road and a van stopped on the side,” said Wilson, whose family has owned the R.V. park for 36 years.
“When I stopped I could hear a woman screaming.”
Wilson, who knew Punter as a regular visitor to the park, could see that her dog had been struck by the van and was lying about 10 feet from where Punter stood. Wilson said he tried to comfort her, telling her he would take care of the dog for her. But she kept screaming, he said. After about 20 or 30 seconds, Wilson said, something clicked and Punter recognized him.
“She said, ‘No, not the dog. It’s my grandson,’” Wilson said. He said it took him and others who were at the scene about two minutes to find the boy, who had been thrown and was in the ditch.
“He was a considerable distance from where the dog was,” said Wilson, who attempted to do CPR on Gavin.
“I know the basics of what to do,” he said. “It wasn’t enough.”
Wilson said Shorter stopped her vehicle at the scene, but then left. “She did seem a little dazed or shocked,” he said.
The R.V. park has three entrances and Punter and Gavin had been between the two southernmost drives, Wilson said. “If they had just gone another hundred feet they would have been all right,” he said.
The speed limit on that stretch of Lake Shore Drive is 55 mph. Even so, a fair amount of people walk, jog and ride bikes there, Wilson said. He said he has never seen an accident involving a car and a pedestrian or bike.
“You should be able to safely walk on the shoulder of the road,” he said.
Wilson said the Punter family had been coming to the park for about 10 or 12 years, since their own children were teenagers. A large number of those who visit the park come back year after year and everyone knows each other, he said. That night there were very few campfi res and hardly anyone was up past dark, he said.
“This is like a small community,” Wilson said. “The grapevine extends a long way ... The whole place was pretty subdued.”
Mary Anne and Tom Putt of Bay City also heard the sirens on Sunday morning.
“That struck us as very odd,” said Mary Anne Putt. “You don’t hear that very often up here.”
The couple’s own 4-year-old grandson back home has the very same John Deere tractor-style tricycle that Gavin was riding when he was killed.
“The day before that he was riding right out here,” Tom Putt said, indicating the area in front of his R.V. “He was right out here. We were watching him.”
“It makes me nauseated to think about it,” Mary Anne Putt said.