This story was updated May 15 at 6:30 p.m. to include a link to Spotlight’s obituary for Michael Kleinke.
SLINGERLANDS – A horrific crash on Route 85 on Thursday, May 11 claimed the life of a Colonie High School senior and injured a man from Slingerlands.
At approximately 2:08 p.m., Bethlehem police, Slingerlands Fire, Albany Fire, North Bethlehem Fire, McKownville Fire, Selkirk Fire, Delmar Bethlehem EMS, and Mohawk Ambulance all responded to the two-car crash on Route 85 just south of the thruway overpass in the Town of Bethlehem.
“We were returning from a previous call for service and were on scene within 3 to 5 minutes of the time of being dispatched to the accident,” Slingerlands Fire Department Chief Jason Tice said. “Upon arrival, it was determined it was a two car accident, one vehicle/occupant requiring extrication/disentanglement.”
According to reports, a Mercedes driven by Thomas McGrath, 71, of Slingerlands and a Ford Mustang driven by Michael Kleinke Jr., 17, from Colonie collided nearly head on.
Calls to 911 went to both the City of Albany and Bethlehem and both municipalities sent first responders due to its location near the City line.
First responders began patient assessment on the occupants of both vehicles, performed vehicle stabilization, and began the extrication process as it had been determined there was heavy entrapment of Kleinke in Mustang, but both drivers had to be removed.
McGrath was freed by firefighters by prying open the Mercedes door, but the Mustang was a much larger problem, according to reports.
“Multiple extrication techniques and tools were used during the process,” Tice said. “It took approximately 59 minutes to remove the one patient. The other patient was removed much sooner.”
During the long extraction, according to Tice, Kleinke was treated throughout by Albany Fire paramedics and an emergency medicine physician who responded to the scene from Albany Medical Center Hospital. After they got him free, he was transported to Albany Medical Center Hospital via Mohawk Ambulance.
“The other patient in the vehicle not requiring extrication (McGrath) was removed and transported by Delmar- Bethlehem EMS with unknown injuries,” Tice said.
After both victims were transported to the hospital, their conditions were unknown until word filtered out that Kleinke had died.
The South Colonie School district posted an update by Superintendent Dr. David Perry on its website Saturday, May 13 that Kleinke, a member of the senior class, had died.
“Our entire South Colonie School community is devastated by this unimaginable loss. Our thoughts, prayers, and deepest condolences go out to Michael’s family, friends and loved ones as they navigate through this incredibly difficult time,” Perry wrote.
The school is providing its support services to the school community.
“Our dedicated school counselors and support staff are available to provide assistance, guidance and emotional support to students and faculty members who may be struggling with grief or in need of someone to talk to. We encourage anyone in need to reach out to these resources for support,” he said. “We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the first responders and medical professionals who worked tirelessly to provide immediate care to Michael. Their efforts and expertise were truly invaluable.”
The word also reached the first responders the same day.
“After returning from a call on Saturday, we were made aware that one patient had succumbed to their injuries,” Tice said. “Chief Craig Sleurs announced this information to our members and conveyed that if any member needed assistance in dealing with this tragedy arrangements would be made.”
His funeral arrangements are detailed in our obituary here.
The crash is being investigated by members of the Bethlehem Police Department and the Albany County Crash Investigation Team. The team had Route 85 closed westbound for hours collecting data to find the cause of the wreck.
Update on July 25. An arrest is made in this case.