Guardrails to be installed at site of double fatal crash in Niles

Leader photo/CRAIG HAUPERT — The Berrien County Road Commission will install guardrails where Bond Street crosses Brandywine Creek in Niles Township following a double fatal accident there in February.

Leader photo/CRAIG HAUPERT — The Berrien County Road Commission will install guardrails where Bond Street crosses Brandywine Creek in Niles Township following a double fatal accident there in February.

Guardrails will be installed at the site of an accident that claimed the lives of two Niles area people in February.

Louis Csokasy, the director of the Berrien County Road Commission, said guardrails would be placed where Bond Street crosses Brandywine Creek in Niles Township, just north of Beeson Road, within the next couple weeks.

“From our evaluation we found a guardrail would be appropriate,” Csokasy said, adding that the slope off the road and presence of water in the creek were factors in the decision.

One hundred feet of guard rail will be placed on the east side of the road, Csokasy said, while 400 feet will be placed on the west side.

The decision comes after the road commission conducted an investigation of the area following the fatal accident.

Csokasy said his organization conducts an investigation any time there is a fatal or severe accident on a county road.

The bodies of 29-year-old Autumn Mehl, of Berrien Springs, and 26-year-old Steven Rough, of Buchanan, were found Feb. 14 in a vehicle that had driven into Brandywine Creek near the intersection of Bond and Beeson streets in Niles Township during a snowy weekend.

There were no guardrails installed at the time of the accident.

After an investigation, the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department determined that alcohol and weather were contributing factors in the accident.

Police determined that Mehl was driving the vehicle and had a blood alcohol content of .14, which exceeds the legal limit of .08. Rough was a passenger in the vehicle. The cause of death for both was drowning.

When contacted by phone Monday, Mehl’s husband, Alex, said he is happy with the road commission’s decision to install guardrails, although he wished it would’ve happened sooner.

“It is better late than never, to prevent it from happening again,” he said. “It is still hard to believe some days, but we are trying to find a new normal in life.”

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