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Accident claims South Whidbey teen

"A high-speed, two-car crash Tuesday afternoon killed an 18-year-old Freeland man and severely injured a 17-year-old boy.Jesse Travis, who graduated from South Whidbey High School this month, was killed when he was ejected from a car driven by Noboru Jones. According to the Washington State Patrol, Jones, a Langley resident, was driving his 1995 Hyundai Elantra at 50-55 mph southbound on Craw Road at about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday when he lost control of the car on a curve. Jones apparently crossed over the center line to make the curve, then swerved right to avoid an oncoming car driven by David Eining. At that point, according to the State Patrol, Jones lost control and the car started sliding sideways. A 1970 Pontiac LeMans driven by Joseph Mulcahy, 17, of Clinton, which was following closely behind Eining, struck the Hyundai in the rear passenger-side quarter panel. The State Patrol estimated that the LeMans was traveling at about 35 mph.Travis, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was thrown from the car and landed in the roadway clear of the vehicles. Jones was badly injured on impact, sustaining a massive head injury. It was unknown whether he was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident.Emergency medical technicians and paramedics quickly removed Travis from the scene, taking him to South Whidbey High School, where he was placed aboard an Airlift Northwest helicopter bound for Seattle's Harborview Medical Center. Travis died at the hospital Wednesday afternoon.While Travis was on his way to Seattle, Fire Protection District 3 personnel used cutting tools to remove the roof from the Hyundai in order to extricate Jones. Jones was placed on a second helicopter and was also flown to Harborview. He was listed in serious but stable condition as of Thursday afternoon.James Watson, 18, of Langley, a passenger riding in the back seat of the Hyundai, suffered a minor cut to the head and complained of minor neck pain. He was treated and released by Whidbey General Hospital. Mulcahy, the driver of the LeMans, was treated at the scene for a bloody nose and knee pain. A passenger in his car, Zachary Magnuson, was not hurt in the crash.Island County Sheriff's Lt. Harry Uncapher was the first law enforcement officer on the scene where a number of teenagers were already present. In his report, Uncapher stated that four witnesses to the accident refused to provide statements about the circumstances of the crash, claiming that they did not wish to incriminate anyone. Mulcahy was involved in another serious accident on Feb. 25, when he crashed a 1967 Pontiac while drag racing against an Acura Integra on Deer Lake Road. He suffered cuts to his head and arms in that accident.Tuesday's accident will be investigated by the State Patrol as a possible criminal matter. The agency's technical accident investigation unit will take one to two months to determine the causes of the accident and to discover which, if any, driver was at fault, and if that fault rises to a criminal level.In response to the two traffic fatalities this week (a woman died Monday on Double Bluff Road), the State Patrol will make the unusual move of patroling Island County's roads as well as the highway. Patrol Sgt. Rick Grimstad said even though his Oak Harbor precinct has only seven officers on duty at any one time in Island and Skagit counties, he is willing to burn extra patrol hours to slow traffic on South Whidbey's side roads. Craw and Coles roads may receive extra attention, since both roads, Grimstad said, are often used for drag racing and burnouts.Also responding to Tuesday's tragedy is the staff of South Whidbey High School. Even though the school is out of session, principal Mike Johnson said a school counselor was on duty all week to assist students with grief issues. Johnson himself spoke Thursday to a driver's education class that is still in session at the school. He told the students in the class that Jesse Travis' death is a terrible reminder of how dangerous a speeding car can be, especially if its occupants choose not to wear seatbelts.It's a really tough lesson they're having to learn now as we grieve the loss of a young man who had his whole life ahead of him, Johnson said Thursday.Johnson said students and recently graduated seniors in need of counseling should call the school at 221-4300 or stop by the school building between 8:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. for an appointment with a counselor."

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