Mackinac Yugo accident

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Mackinac Yugo accident
Mackinac Bridge.JPG
Type 1 accident
Type 2 money scam
Year 1989
Date 09/22
Place Mackinac Bridge, Michigan
Perp Leslie Ann Pluhar
Research [R 1]

The Mackinac Yugo accident was an accident psyop taking place on September 22, 1989 at the bridge to Michigan. Leslie Ann Pluhar died when her 1987 Yugo plunged over the 36-inch-high (91 cm) railing. A combination of high winds and excessive speed was initially blamed. Later investigation showed the driver had stopped her car over the open steel grating on the bridge's span and that a gust of wind through the grating blew her vehicle off the bridge.



Within days of the accident, the Michigan Senate formed a subcommittee to investigate the safety of the Mackinac Bridge. The bridge had been opened in 1957, and its design reflected the safety standards of an earlier era. The Mackinac Bridge Authority argued strenuously that the bridge was safe, pointing to the sixty-four million vehicles that had crossed in all kinds of weather without incident previously. No structural changes have been made to the bridge as a result of Pluhar’s fall. However, since the incident, the Bridge Authority has been posting notices of high winds for motorists and offering an escort program for people too scared to drive over the span themselves.

The Pluhar family retained attorney F. Joseph Cady to pursue civil litigation against the State of Michigan, the Michigan Department of Transportation, the Mackinac Bridge Authority, and the New York architectural firm that designed the bridge. The defendants insisted that the freak accident was somehow Pluhar’s fault and had no chance of being repeated. Nevertheless, the state settled out of court in 1994, citing mounting costs as the reason for ending the suit.


The Plot Thickens

At this point we have an event without explanation, but with lots of contradictory testimony between the witnesses and the evidence. This by itself is unremarkable: few things in life come neatly bundled and tied up with a ribbon. Inexplicable things happen every day, and very few are due to conspiratorial shenanigans. Why then do I catch the scent of deception?

• Multiple searches of the Social Security Death Index have turned up no mention of Leslie Ann Pluhar.

• Pluhar’s neighbors at her Royal Oak apartment complex say that she had moved in only two or three months before the accident [Detroit Free Press, 9-27-89, p. 14A; Battle Creek Enquirer, 9-28-89, p. 1]. Her friends also report that Pluhar and Burton planned to marry within the next six months [Detroit Free Press, 9-28-89, p. 1A]: in some press accounts, Burton is called a fiancé rather than a boyfriend. Why would a woman who was planning to marry and move up to the Upper Peninsula in less than a year take the trouble of getting a new apartment?

• The later press accounts of the accident play up the issue of Pluhar’s speeding, although the early witnesses emphasize wind as the key factor and not her speed. Witness Jim Jaskiewicz told reporters outright: “It wasn’t like the driver was speeding or anything.”

• Pluhar’s driving record made it into the papers: four speeding convictions, one drunk-driving conviction, two license suspensions and a restriction between 1982 and 1984. But she had no tickets since her license was reinstated in February, 1985. It strikes me as unusual for the papers to cast aspersions on an accident victim by printing past bad acts. It seems like an attempt to smear the victim rather than explain the accident.

• Likewise, the medical examiner’s statement that Pluhar had an “extremely low level of alcohol in her system” seems like further post-mortem character assassination. Can a coroner really determine blood alcohol levels on a body that has been underwater for eight days?

• The cast of characters in this drama is drawn from an unusually large geographical range. The medical examiner worked in Grand Rapids, four hours south of the Straits. The judge who presided over the civil suit, Macomb Circuit Court Judge Michael Schwartz, heard the case as an acting state Court of Claims judge. Why not one of the regular judges? And the Pluhar family attorney, F. Joseph Cady, was from Saginaw (some accounts say Sault Ste. Marie). Why would a Detroit-area family choose a small-town attorney from 100 miles north (or more!) rather than a big-time law firm from the big city?

• Wikipedia at one time claimed: “In actuality every driver that day had been warned against traversing the bridge. Pluhar had insisted on making the crossing, and officials said later that excess speed was a factor in her death.” This false claim was later removed. This disinformation is re-quoted around the Internet in discussions of the incident.

[...]"[R 1]

See also