Hayride driver faces criminal charges; tells police he had birthday drinks before accident

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Camp Dearborn, at 1700 General Motors Road in Milford Township, is owned and operated by the city of Dearborn.

Camp Dearborn, at 1700 General Motors Road in Milford Township, is owned and operated by the city of Dearborn.

Police say the driver of a hayride wagon that tipped over at Camp Dearborn — sending nine people to the hospital Sunday — is expected to be criminally charged Wednesday.

The driver, whose name has not been released, told police he had at least a couple of drinks earlier in the day before the accident occurred. Police said a preliminary breath test showed the man had a blood alcohol level of 0.06%, below the legal threshold of 0.08% to be arrested for drunken driving.

According to the police report, the 28-year-old Milford resident said he “was only drinking because it was his birthday,” and that he only drinks “off the clock.”

The driver told police he took a break at 11:30 a.m. and went to a local restaurant, where he consumed an alcoholic beverage with his lunch. He went back to the restaurant around 2 p.m., the report said, and consumed more alcohol before returning to work at 4 p.m. to prepare for a 5 p.m. hayride.

Milford Police Chief Tom Lindberg said he expects the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office to announce charges Wednesday.

“This is an unregulated activity, as far as law enforcement (is concerned). It’s a hayride on private property,” Lindberg said. “We’re interested in the health and safety of human beings and making sure we enforce the law.”

The camp, in Milford Township in western Oakland County, is owned by the city of Dearborn. Dearborn city spokeswoman Mary Laundroche declined to comment on the incident or on any personnel issues.

The driver told police he has worked at Camp Dearborn for about a year.

The accident occurred shortly after 5:30 p.m. Sunday. Officers on the scene administered sobriety tests and asked the man to take a preliminary breath test, which registered 0.06%, said Lt. Matthew Brumm of the Milford Police Department.

Sixteen passengers were riding in a wooden wagon pulled by a tractor inside Camp Dearborn’s Area B, west of Hubbard and just north of General Motors Road, when the wagon turned over, landed on its side and righted itself again.

The driver told police he was navigating a small hill as he attempted a left turn into a row of campsites when the wagon turned over. At least two passengers reported they felt the hayride was going too fast; one woman told the officer the driver was “flying.”

The driver allegedly told officers his passengers moved to the left side of the wagon during the ride, telling him they wanted to “throw hay” at riders on a wagon traveling in the same area, and he said he had told them to remain seated.

After the accident, police spoke with several riders who disputed the claim, saying passengers were evenly distributed among the wagon’s three benches when the accident occurred.

The passengers said they hadn’t heard anyone talking about throwing hay.

Milford Fire Chief Larry Waligora said nine people were hospitalized as a result of the incident; seven were taken by ambulance to Providence Park Hospital in Novi, while two others went to Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital in Commerce Township. None of the injuries were life-threatening.

Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press

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