BY MATT MACKINDER
Clarkston News Editor
Clarkston resident Ronald Ohlinger was tragically killed Monday, August 31, when a massive tree fell on his minivan on Williams Lake Road near Vanden Drive in White Lake Township near the Waterford border.
His 18-year-old stepdaughter, Autumn, suffered a broken collarbone after it took 45 minutes to remove her from the vehicle. She was taken to McLaren Oakland Hospital in Pontiac for treatment.
Ohlinger, 41, was pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy determined the cause of death was extreme trauma to the head.
He owned Hometown Tattoo and Crown Pizza in Clarkston.
Reportedly, a crew from DTE Energy was performing work in the area of the accident earlier that day.
“We are aware of the tragic incident that occurred yesterday evening involving a tree that fell on an occupied passenger vehicle in White Lake Township,” DTE Energy said in a statement, Sept. 1. “Our hearts go out to the family involved. Our teams are working with local authorities to investigate, but at this time, we have no reason to believe that DTE Energy or any of our partners were involved with the incident.
“While DTE has confirmed that a contractor has been performing tree trimming in the neighborhood, they haven’t been working at the specific location for weeks. This particular tree was not subject to trimming as it did not interfere with the power lines.”
Lt. Matthew Ivory of the White Lake Township Police said the department’s investigation shows Ohlinger’s death was an accident and no criminal charges are being pursued.
Craig Bryson, senior communications manager for the Road Commission of Oakland County, said utility companies, including DTE, routinely contract with crews to cut back trees or branches identified as being a threat to power lines.
“This was a tragic situation, and we feel for the family,” said Bryson. “In this case, it just seems to be a situation of a tree that looked healthy from the street, but when it was cut up, revealed it had serious rot in the trunk and root system. It seems to be just a horrible and tragic coincidence.”
Ohlinger’s family has set up a GoFundMe account at gofundme.com/f/24hk1ogiyo.