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Neighbor recounts terrible night of fatal crash
CLINTON — It was just after midnight Friday, and Robert Volz heard a loud noise and looked out his living room window to see headlights in his driveway.
"What the hell's going on?" he asked.
He soon found out. Hell was across the street.
Volz looked out his door and saw flames on the other side of Wilkinson Road. He turned to his girlfriend and told her to call 911.
He ran down his driveway, and someone in the waiting car asked him to call 911. Volz told them they already had as he kept going toward the flames.
When he got to the road, he saw two girls sitting in the street, right near the sign for Meander Lane. They were holding each other, screaming and crying.
Volz looked over and saw the bus stop shelter wasn't on fire – he had first thought kids had torched it when he saw flames — but it was a small car, too mangled to see what type.
The girls told him what happened, too fast to catch it all, but they said they had pulled a girl out but there were still three others inside.
The flames were more than 20 feet high.
"It just burned and burned."
"It … was horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible. I've never seen anything like that. And never want to again," Volz said.
A Langley police car pulled up a minute or two later and the officer ran up with the small extinguisher from his patrol car. He emptied it and threw it down.
"You couldn't even really see the car in there," Volz said.
The Washington State Patrol said Kaylea Souza, 18, was behind the wheel of the 2003 Chevrolet Malibu that went off the road right near the entranceway of the Wilkinson Trace subdivision.
Three passengers — a 22-year-old Freeland man, a 20-year-old Langley man, and a 19-year-old man from Palmdale, Calif. — were killed at the scene.
Authorities have not released the names of the victims, but friends have identified the dead as Rob Knight, Mick Poynter and Mack Porter.
Poynter, 20, and Knight, 22, were well-known on South Whidbey.
Poynter was a 2009 graduate of South Whidbey High School who played on the Falcon baseball team, and Knight was a star Falcon football player who was the Cascade Conference's Most Valuable Player in 2006. His father Bruce helped coach the team.
A candlelight service is planned for 7 p.m. tonight at the high school.
State Patrol Trooper Keith Leary said it wasn't known if they died in the crash, or were killed in the fire that quickly engulfed the car.
Leary said speed and alcohol were factors in the accident, but he did not know if the passengers had been drinking.
Souza had minor injuries, he said, and she walked to the ambulance that took her to Whidbey General Hospital in Coupeville for treatment.
Leary said she was later arrested for investigation of vehicular homicide and driving under the influence, and a blood draw was taken after her arrest.
Souza was booked into Island County jail in Coupeville Saturday morning.
According to the State Patrol, Souza was driving south on Wilkinson Road south toward Clinton, lost control while passing another car and struck a tree.
At the accident scene, a deep gouge was left in a 2-foot-high embankment where the Malibu left the road, and plastic pieces of the car's undercarriage were embedded in the upturned dirt. It looked like the car went into the air — there were no tire tracks in the soft earth — before it came down on the far side of Meander Lane and then hit the tree near the front right tire of the vehicle.
When the car crashed into the tree, the impact snapped the foot-and-half-thick tree trunk near the top, which then fell onto the roof of the Malibu.
Saturday morning, the tree top was on the other side of Meander Lane, where it was left by emergency workers after they cut it in half to get it off the car.
The four-door Chevrolet sedan was gone, taken to the State Patrol impound lot in Skagit County early Saturday.
Remnants of a violent wreck were still visible; on the ground, a melted rear taillight, a scorched cellphone holder, a thin, twisted piece of metal about the size of a notebook.
Tiny fragments of the windshield were sprayed into the forest about 30 feet in front of the car.
Farther away in the woods, lying among fallen alder leaves, a few mossy rocks and blackberry vines was the rear-view mirror from the car, with a candy necklace, a small leather souvenir, a seashell necklace and a light-blue graduation tassel and its number, '11, still strung around the stem of the broken mirror.
The tree the car hit was scorched more than 20 feet up its trunk, even in the places where the bark had been knocked off, and its drooping branches were burnt black. A 90-foot-tall Douglas fir just a few feet away was also dark as midnight, its black bark reaching as high as the power lines over the road. The power pole next to the road had been burnt to its top.
The ground around the tree was blackened, with spots of gray ash, and pieces of the vehicle were mixed in the dirt.
Sometime before 6 a.m., the family of one of the victims visited the site. A small white cross made of metal tubing was put next to the Douglas fir, with the words, "We love you Mick - Mom & Dad," were written on the cross with black marker. On top of the cross sat the metal clasp of a car safety belt.
Wilkinson Road was closed for four hours while detectives worked the crash scene; they left about 4 a.m. Saturday, said Volz, the neighbor from across the street.
It's the third accident Volz has seen on this stretch of Wilkinson Road; drivers make the curve before a long straightaway that heads south toward Highway 525 and then gun it.
His son, now away at college in Germany, knew one of the victims. Volz was dreading the call he'd make later.
Friends and family members came by throughout the morning. Residents from Wilkinson Trace stopped their cars while leaving their neighborhood to ask what was going on; none had heard the crash.
Diane Ludington, the mother of Knight's high school girlfriend, said she had seen Knight and Poynter a few hours before the accident. They had been playing pool earlier Friday night.
"I did not see him and the other boy drinking at all last night," Ludington said.
"None of them deserved this. They were all good boys," she said. "Mick had such a sense of humor, always laughing, always a smile on his face, always telling jokes, kind of a jokester. Wonderful kid. So was Rob."
She said Knight was like a son to her, and the feeling was mutual.
"He said, 'You're my second mom.'"
Ludington said Knight and her daughter were boyfriend-girlfriend for two years in high school.
"He was so excited. He told me last night that my daughter finally accepted him as a friend on Facebook again, and he was so happy.
"He gave me hugs that were so deep and so meant. I didn't know it would be final," she said.
Ludington pulled up her right sleeve to show the silver watch Knight had given her two weeks ago on her birthday.
"I'm just heartbroken now," she said between sobs that shook her whole body.
"I keep telling him, 'Follow the light, just follow the light.'"