Brandon Clevenger pleads guilty in crash that killed Comstock Fire Chief Ed Switalski
Brandon Clevenger pleaded guilty this morning to reckless driving causing death in the highway crash that killed Comstock Fire Chief Ed Switalski six months ago.
Replying in one-word answers, Clevenger, 24, of Battle Creek, admitted in Kalamazoo County Circuit Court that he was responsible for the crash that killed Switalski.
He faces penalties of up to 25 years in prison when he is sentenced Jan. 29. Clevenger has no prior felony convictions.
Switalski was cleaning up the scene of a previous crash on eastbound Interstate 94, when Clevenger, driving past, lost control of his own vehicle and hit Switalski. The fire chief died at the scene.
Investigators said a car data recorder indicated Clevenger was traveling at speeds as high as 90 mph at the time and crashed into a barrier at 87 mph. Additionally, an analysis of Clevenger's phone showed he was using it before the collision.
Switalski's death rocked the community. He had served as a firefighter for 30 years and was active in community service efforts.
Three months after the crash, a warrant was issued against Clevenger. He turned himself in, and after arraignment was released on a personal recognizance bond.
Switalski's wife, Holly, and other family members were the courtroom for the pleading; all of them had tears in their eyes during the proceedings.
Afterward, Holly Switalski called the event bittersweet and said she was happy that Clevenger decided to plea because it spared the family from the ordeal of a trial.
“Mr. Clevenger didn’t do the right thing six months ago," Holly Switalski said. "And I am thankful that today he did the right thing. He admitted his guilt, and for that I feel relief that we didn’t have to go to trial.”
She also said she felt compassion for Clevenger's family.
"As a mom, I mean my heart, my daughter is about his age, and just very sad for both families," she said. "It’s been terrible for us and I feel like it’s been terrible for them, just tragic. Senseless. You know when you see those emergency vehicles, slow down.”
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