Driving on Highway 525 has been hazardous this holiday season.
Six people, including two minors, survived a head-on and a T-bone car crash this past week, both at high speeds.
The T-bone collision Wednesday night sent Langley resident Heather Kelley, 37, to Harborview Medical Center. As of Dec. 28, Kelley was in serious condition in the intensive care unit at Harborview.
“We get a lot of accidents in that general road,” said South Whidbey Fire/EMS Deputy Chief Jon Beck, who was the officer in command at the scene. “There’s a lot of businesses, a lot of side roads. That’s one of the primary reasons the state dropped the speed limit to 45 mph.”
Driving south on Highway 525, Kelley’s minivan collided with a Chevrolet truck driven by Clinton resident Oran Downs, 83, as he pulled out of the American Legion Post 141 driveway near Bayview. Responders from South Whidbey Fire/EMS had to cut the frame of Kelley’s Chrysler Town and Country van, remove the driver’s door and part of the driver-side rear door to extract her from the wreck. She was conscious during the extraction, which lasted about 15 minutes.
“The majority of the newer cars are so strong that the driver’s compartment is protected,” Beck said. “We’re just seeing the result of newer technology.”
Upon removal from the wreckage, Kelley was stabilized on a stretcher and taken to Whidbey General Hospital and ultimately driven to Harborview. The low cloud ceiling Wednesday night prohibited an airlift transport.
Downs, a Clinton resident, and his passenger, 61-year-old Marc Woodside of Greenbank, were not injured in the crash. Both refused any medical treatment by Whidbey General Hospital and South Whidbey Fire/EMS emergency medical technicians.
That stretch of the highway accelerates from 45 mph to 55 mph just south of the driveway to the American Legion hall. It used to be 55 mph through Bayview.
“Lowering the speed limit has helped in that area,” Beck said.
The site of the collision was blocked off for four hours Wednesday night as Washington State Patrol investigated the area.
That was the second time in less than five days that South Whidbey Fire/EMS had to cut a driver out of their car.
The head-on crash in Freeland on Dec. 22 led to two people being airlifted to Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center from Whidbey General Hospital, and three others were treated at Whidbey General Hospital.
Both crashes are believed to have drugs or alcohol involved, according to the Washington State Patrol reports. There were no fatalities from the unrelated wrecks.
The Freeland collision trapped one driver in his Toyota Corolla for about 30 minutes. South Whidbey Fire/EMS responders cut out the door to extract Brian Shore, a 36-year-old Seattle man.
“The dashboard, the front end and everything just compressed,” said Mike Cotton, deputy chief of South Whidbey Fire/EMS.
Shore was conscious during the extraction, Cotton said, but in pain. After Shore was removed from the totaled sedan, he was placed on a stretcher and taken to Whidbey General Hospital, and later airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
“We took full precautions with him because of the mechanism of high-speed crashes,” Cotton said.
As of Dec. 28, Shore was in stable condition at Western Washington’s main medical emergency center. His passenger, 28-year-old Daisy Ko, was also airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in the early hours Dec. 22 and released the same day.
A 34-year-old Federal Way woman was driving a Nissan Pathfinder SUV south on Highway 525. The driver, Danyal York, crossed the double-yellow line and struck Shore’s Toyota Corolla as he drove north with a juvenile passenger and Ko.
Witnesses helped the crash victims, other than the still-trapped Shore, until emergency responders arrived.
Other than the South Whidbey Fire/EMS “Jaws of life” demonstration with the cutter every August for the Whidbey Island Area Fair, the equipment rarely sees use. Cotton could not recall the last time the extraction equipment was used on duty.
“It’s been some time since we’ve had an accident where we’ve had to use it,” he said.
Three ambulance trucks from Whidbey General Hospital EMS responded, as well as two engines from South Whidbey Fire/EMS and its rescue truck, another rescue truck from Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue and several law enforcement vehicles.
Highway 525 was rerouted for almost an hour through Shoreview Drive last Friday night.