updated 6/27/2008 5:00:38 PM ET 2008-06-27T21:00:38

A Michigan man was sentenced to 43 years in prison Friday for driving the wrong way on an interstate and slamming his pickup truck into a minivan, killing a Maryland mother and four children who were returning home from a Christmas trip.

Michael Gagnon of Adrian, Mich., had a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit and marijuana in his system, authorities said.

Lucas County Judge Linda Jennings called Gagnon a dangerous person. "You have a drinking problem and you don't even know it," she said.

Gagnon, 24, had pleaded no contest to five counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and two counts of aggravated vehicular assault.

"In my mind and spirit, I will be serving a life sentence for the pain I've caused," Gagnon said Friday, reading from a handwritten statement in court.

He won't be eligible for release until he reaches his mid-60s.

A fatal wrong turn
Gagnon was drinking with family at a bar on Dec. 30 to celebrate the New Year when he went out for fast food and took a wrong turn onto Interstate 280 in Toledo, investigators said.

He drove about four miles in the wrong direction and just missed several other cars before his truck hit the minivan filled with six children and a husband and wife who had spent Christmas with family in Michigan, authorities said.

The minivan was rounding a curve when the truck came directly at the family. Both drivers tried to avoid each other, but the crash ripped open one side of the van, hurtling some of the victims into the road and scattering toys, stuffed animals and bits of gift wrap.

Bethany Griffin, 36, of Parkville, Md., and three of her daughters — Vadi Griffin, 2 months; Lacie Burkman, 7; and Haley Burkman, 10 — died in the crash along with Jordan Griffin, 10, the daughter of Bethany Griffin's husband, Danny Griffin Jr., 36.

Danny Griffin, who was driving the van, was injured.

Griffin told the court that his life will never be the same and that he no longer comes home to a house filled with children and a smiling wife.

He said he misses helping the kids with their homework and tucking them into bed at night.

"I know my life isn't over, but a large part is missing," he said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments