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Man fighting county over son's autopsy

6:20 PM, Mar 19, 2012   |    comments
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Courtesy: Patti VanHuizen

ALLENDALE, Mich. (WZZM) - An Ottawa County father who witnessed his son's motorcycle crash says his wishes are being ignored.

Ottawa County officials wanted an autopsy on Bruce Vanderwerf's son Coly, but Vanderwerf did not.  He called 13 On Your Side for help.

"I was there," says Vanderwerf of Saturday's accident.  "I saw the impact. I felt his last breath."

On Saturday morning, Vanderwef and his son riding together on their motorcycles, and were going to get tires for Coly's bike. They were approaching Lake Michigan Drive and 88th Avenue when Vanderwerf noticed traffic was coming to a stop.

"The last car was an SUV," he says.  "I didn't see any brake lights, so it was just coasting."

Bruce tried warning Coly, but the younger rider hit the SUV in front of him.

Coly was taken to Holland Hospital, where he was told an autopsy would be performed.  Bruce saus he thought his son had been through enough, and pleaded with the representatives with the county medical examiner's office not to do an autopsy.  An autopsy was done anyway.

The Ottawa County Medical Examiner, who ordered the autopsy, says it is required in Michigan.  State law says that if the medical examiner cannot accurately determine the cause of death, an autopsy must be done.

"I know what the cause of death was," says Vanderwerf.  "It was impact. And what are we going to gain from that? Is it us who wants the autopsy? No, it's the state."

The medical examiner says autopsies are done to help investigators and the family determine if there was an underlying condition that led to the death.

In this case, Vanderwerf says it just doesn't seem right. "We're not gaining anything from that," he says.  "Not one thing."

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