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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, December 24, 2009

Altamont mourns
Crash kills teen

By Anne Hayden

ALTAMONT — When Michael Grinmanis Sr. talked to his 19-year-old son at around 9 p.m. on Saturday night, he warned him that some winter weather might be on its way, and to be careful driving home. His son, Michael Grinmanis Jr., said he would drive safely, and would try to be home around 11 p.m.

The Guilderland Police Department responded to a call for a one-car crash on Dunnsville Road at around 1 a.m. on Sunday morning; Michael Grinmanis Jr. was found unconscious at the wheel of his 1997 Ford Ranger. His vehicle had struck a utility pole. The Altamont Rescue Squad rushed Grinmanis to Albany Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

According to Curtis Cox, captain of the Guilderland Police Department, speed and alcohol were most likely factors in the accident, although the investigation is still ongoing.

Grinmanis Sr. said his son had been at a friend’s house that night, working on a truck. He said he could only assume that his son had been heading home when he crashed. Cox said police had determined that Grinmanis Jr., who lived with his family at 176 Main St., in Altamont, had been on Dunnsville Road heading toward the village.

Kim Stempel, a member of the Altamont Rescue Squad, and a responder to Sunday’s call, said the situation was “extremely sad.” She was sleeping when the call came in, but, she said, she was warned of the seriousness of the scene.

“I was nervous, and it was dark, but I just tried to prepare in my mind what kind of equipment I would need,” she said. Stempel said the rescue squad performed a “rapid extrication,” and immediately began trying to resuscitate Grinmanis Jr.  She said resuscitation is always attempted unless there is an obvious death.

“Personally, when I’m on the scene, I don’t think about things, I just do what I need to do. It hits me later. I actually had to call my husband afterward because I was crying,” said Stempel. She said that, occasionally, when the squad has had to respond to something so tragic, there is a “de-briefing session” held in the following days, to allow squad members to work through their emotions. Andrea Dean, president of the Altamont Rescue Squad, said there would most likely be a session held to deal with this situation.

“It’s just extremely sad. I keep thinking about how just one thing could have been different that night, and it wouldn’t have happened,” said Stempel. “I’m also a little bit angry that someone made that bad decision.”

Grinmanis Sr. said his son was an excellent driver, and had not been in an accident in the nearly four years that he’d had his license. He said he thought assuming alcohol was involved was premature.

“That does not sound like my son. I can only speculate that if he was drinking and driving, there was a reason. Maybe he was on his way to confront someone about a wrongdoing. Maybe there were bottles of alcohol in the car that broke when he crashed and that would explain the smell. All I can do is speculate,” Grinmanis Sr. said. His son was not a drunk out on the road, he said, nor had he ever been a hazard to others.

“He knew right from wrong. He was raised in a very loving household,” his father said. He called his son a “good boy who liked to help others.” (See related obbituary.) Grinmanis Sr. said his son had supported many friends through tough times, always able to console and help others see the positive side.

“Michael was just a 19-year-old kid enjoying the beginnings of life,” his father said. “From what I saw and experienced, he never did anything worse than what I did at that age.” He described his son as well-liked, respectable, and well-respected.

Grinmanis Sr. said he wanted to extend a thank-you for the overwhelming support the family has received from the community. He said it was a joy to learn how many friends his son had.

“It is going to be very trying to move on from this. Christmas will never be the same. Michael was our youngest, our ‘funny boy,’” said Grinmanis Sr.

He said the family is awaiting the toxicology report to find out why and how the accident happened.

Captain Cox said it could take six to eight weeks for the results of the toxicology report to come in. The investigators on the case are still conducting interviews, and have not come to any conclusions about speed and alcohol, Cox said. In the meantime, anyone who has information about the crash is encouraged to call the traffic safety unit of the Guilderland Police Department.

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