For twenty-one years, the retired band director has picked up trash along Huron River Dr. (Up Front, September 2016). On that day in May, a bicycle race was underway, and Wilkins’ first thought was that a cyclist had been hurt. “But then another bicyclist rode up to me and told me about the accident—how a canoeist saw that Corvette go flying around the corner, one hundred miles per hour at least, couldn’t hold the turn, smashed into the tree, and the bicyclist said he saw the couple pretty bloodied up.”
MLive.com reported that “the driver, a 21-year-old Ypsilanti Township man and the passenger, a 17-year-old Ann Arbor girl, had to be extracted from the car by emergency responders. Both occupants suffered broken bones, but no life-threatening injuries.”
A local automotive journalist who asked not to be named calls their survival a credit to the car, a 2016 Corvette Z06. In photos of the wreck on MLive, the only identifiable parts are its acid-green rear end and the vanity place AMERIKA.
Between Ann Arbor and Dexter, Huron River Dr. is a narrow, winding road with a speed limit of thirty-five miles per hour. But the journalist agrees with the canoeist’s speed estimate: “That car is so capable, you’d have to be going well over a hundred to lose control on one of those corners,” he says. The driver “was doing something monumentally stupid. He’s lucky he didn’t get himself and his seventeen-year-old passenger killed.”
Scio Township is patrolled by Washtenaw County sheriff’s deputies. The accident report, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, identifies the passenger as Jingyu Chunyu. According to the only online posting the Observer found about her, she’s an exchange student who arrived here last fall as a high-school junior.
Driver Jie Fu Jeffrey Gong is all over the web. His Facebook page and other posts feature high-priced, flashy shoes, watches, sunglasses, and cars. Just in the past two years, he’s boasted of buying the 650-hp Corvette, a Ford Raptor performance truck, and a MINI Cooper (“just a winter car don’t judge me”).
The Corvette, though, was the star—it was featured repeatedly on the YouTube channel “Vehicle Virgins,” founded by U-M engineering grad Parker Nirenstein. Last year, Gong posted a video of himself exceeding ninety miles an hour on Huron River Dr.
Neither Nirenstein nor Gong responded to emailed requests for comment. According to the sheriff’s report, no ticket was issued at the scene, but that doesn’t mean Gong is off the hook. Sheriff’s sergeant Dave Archer says an ongoing investigation may lead to criminal charges.
Might Gong also face civil liability? Asked that question, an attorney who asked not to be named laughs and jokes, “Give the passenger my card.”
The remains of the AMERIKA Corvette were towed away, but “I’ve been picking up pieces of the car pretty much every day for about a week now,” Wilkins says. When we talked to him in mid-June, he’d just “got it pretty much cleaned up.”