Three hurt in Highway 20 crash

Emergency responders from the Coupeville Marshall
Emergency responders from the Coupeville Marshall's Office and Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue extricate an 11-year-old boy from a three-car pileup. The accident occurred at about 2:20 p.m. on Highway 20 and NW Broadway.
— image credit: Justin Burnett

A three-car pileup near the intersection of Coupeville and Highway 20 Friday sent three people to the hospital and caused the busy road to close for about an hour.

According to Washington State Patrol Trooper Jason Nichols, Clear Lake resident Robert Richardson, 52, was southbound in a 1994 Ford Explorer at about 2:20 p.m. when he crashed into another vehicle that was stopped at the intersection of NW Broadway Street and Ebey Road.

That vehicle, a 1991 GMC Jimmy, was the last in a line of vehicles waiting behind a driver making a left turn onto Broadway. Driving the GMC was Freeland resident Michael Watson, 39. The man's 11-year-old son was also in the car.

"The driver of the Explorer didn't see the Jimmy stopped," Nichols said.

The impact was enough that it caused Watson's vehicle to spin around and flip into the air before eventually coming to rest on its wheels in the middle of the roadway. Richardson's vehicle, the Explorer, kept going and rear-ended a second car, a 2005 Jeep Wrangler. It was driven by Freeland resident Jeffrey Strickland, 25.

Mike Gilbert of Oak Harbor was waiting to make a left turn onto Highway 20 from Ebey Road and saw the accident unfold. A former emergency medical technician, Gilbert said he's seen his fair share of car accidents but the sheer violence of this collision was stunning.

"He was up in the air pretty good," Gilbert said.

Moving from car to car, Gilbert began checking each person for injuries. While Watson appeared OK, his son had lacerations to his elbow. Crying, Gilbert said the boy was obviously shaken up but he appeared more concerned about his bucket of Legos. It had fallen out of the vehicle and the pieces were scattered across the roadway.

"He was more upset about that than the blood coming from his elbow," he said.

Gilbert, along with several other bystanders, would later spend about 10 minutes picking through shattered glass to recover the majority of the Legos.

Richardson appeared to have suffered the worst injures, with glass in his face and an eye. Strickland was not harmed.

According to the State Patrol, Richardson, Watson and the boy were all transported to Whidbey General Hospital in Coupeville largely for "precautionary measures."

Nichols had not issued a citation at the time, but said he would likely ticket Richardson for driving too fast to avoid a collision.

Alcohol or drugs did not appear to be factors in the accident, he said.

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