Driver Charged With Vehicular Homicide After Pickup Hits Minivan, Killing Mom and 4 Kids

A drunken driver from Michigan sped down a highway in the wrong direction for about seven miles before his pickup truck slammed into a minivan carrying a family home after a holiday trip, police said.

A woman and four children in the minivan, including two authorities say were from Michigan, were killed in the crash that scattered toys, stuffed animals and bits of gift wrap along the edge of the road.

Tests showed that the pickup truck's wrong-way driver had a blood-alcohol level of .254 percent, more than three times the legal limit in Ohio of .08, police said.

Michael Gagnon, 24, of Adrian, Mich., was charged Monday with aggravated vehicular homicide. His speech was slurred and he smelled of alcohol at the crash scene, according to a police report.

His truck was going north in the southbound lanes of Interstate 280 Sunday night, fire officials said.

Three of the victims were a mother from Maryland and her two children.

Bethany Griffin, 36, Jordan Griffin, 10, and Verde Griffin, 6 months, all of Parkville, Md., were killed along with Lacie Burkman, 7, and Haley Burkman, 10, both of Redford Township, Mich., near Detroit, according to the Lucas County Coroner's office.

Both drivers tried to avoid each other, but the crash ripped a side door off the minivan, throwing out some of the victims.

An infant seat wrapped with pink baby blankets landed in the roadway.

"It was among the worst I've seen," assistant fire chief Luis Santiago said.

A man and two other children from the minivan were taken to St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center with life-threatening injuries, Santiago said.

Danny Griffin Jr., 36, of Parkville, Md., was listed in serious condition; Sidney Griffin, 8, also of Parkville, was in critical condition; and Beu Burkman, 8, was in serious condition, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Gagnon also was taken to a hospital, but his injuries were not as serious, Santiago said. There was no telephone listing for him or his family in Adrian.

Samuel Gagnon, Michael Gagnon's brother, told The (Baltimore) Sun that he, his brother and their cousins were drinking at a hotel.

Their sister was supposed to drive them home, but Gagnon said his brother took off in the truck without telling anyone.

"I don't know why he decided to leave," Samuel Gagnon told the newspaper. "Everyone's in shock. We're supposed to be celebrating the New Year, but now I got to look forward to my brother in jail the rest of his life."

When reached later by The Associated Press, Samuel Gagnon declined comment.

Michael Gagnon stopped at a fast-food restaurant in a Toledo suburb just before the crash, said Lt. Hank Everitt of the Oregon police department.

Workers at the restaurant called police, but Gagnon left before an officer arrived, Everitt said. Soon after, a 911 call came in about a wrong-way driver on the interstate.

Other drivers also alerted police just before the crash.