Truck barrels into house

Fire District 3 volunteer Donald Elliot, left, and homeowner Bill Sanders, second from left, walk away from the wreckage of Sanders
Fire District 3 volunteer Donald Elliot, left, and homeowner Bill Sanders, second from left, walk away from the wreckage of Sanders' house Tuesday afternoon. A dump truck loaded with dirt apparently lost its brakes uphill from the home and crashed into the house.
— image credit: Matt Johnson

A runaway dump truck that slammed into a house in Scatchet Head Tuesday afternoon could have been the death of somebody. Luckily, no one was in its way.

The truck, driven by 36-year-old Geri Scrivens, apparently lost its brakes on a steep private road above the beach portion of the Scatchet Head community shortly before 5 p.m. Tuesday. It crashed into a two-story home at the bottom of the hill, splitting the structure in two and destroying two cars in the garage, but sparing the driver any serious injury.

Even more fortunate were the home's owners, Bill and Lael Mary Sanders, who were just down the street at the time of the accident. Bill Sanders said he and his wife had just started to walk home from a neighbor's house when they saw the 10-ton dump truck careen down the hill toward their Driftwood Drive home.

It was not easy to watch.

"My wife was immediately in tears. She just broke down," he said.

According to the Island County Sheriff's Office, the truck, which is owned by Whidbey Topsoil in Freeland, had started down the hill at George Drive with a full load of dirt when the brakes apparently gave out. Jan Smith, a spokeswoman for the sheriff's office, said her agency has yet to determine whether faulty brakes were indeed the cause of the accident. She said the accident is still under investigation.

Investigators from the Washington State Patrol, she said, still have not had the opportunity to examine the truck's mechanical systems since, as of Friday, the truck was still embedded in the Sanders' home.

Within minutes of the crash, firefighters and emergency medical personnel were at the scene. Scrivens, who got out of the truck under her own power, had to be calmed by rescuers. She was transported to Whidbey General Hospital, where she was treated for only minor injuries.

The house and truck did not fare as well. The truck hit a two-story garage so hard that it separated from the house as it smashed against a neighbor's home. No one was in that structure at the time of the crash.

The dump truck impacted with a minivan in the garage before the weight of the second story came down on its cab. Witnesses at the scene noted that the dump truck was the only thing holding that portion of the house up. The second floor of the home was partially exposed, though largely untouched. A grand piano inside the home perched near the spot where the dump truck crashed, but was not damaged.

Steve Johnson said he was working on Driftwood Drive at the time of the accident. Driving toward George Drive minutes after the crash, he came across the incredible sight of a dump truck embedded in the house.

"I just noticed something weird happening and stopped," he said.

The truck did not take a straight shot down George Drive. It steered into some grass and veered right into the Sanders' home. Had the truck not turned, it likely would have rolled through a vacant lot at the base of the hill and jumped the beach seawall into Cultus Bay.

Because Driftwood Drive is a private road, gawkers are a small issue. Angela Zenk, manager of the Scatchet Head Community Club, said Friday that those who do drive down to see the house should leave their cars at the community's Totem Pole Park at the base of the hill, instead of parking on the grass on George Drive.

Surprisingly, the crash scene has not been a curiosity for some beach visitors.

"There are actually people who dive down here and don't see the house," she said.

Kingma Construction is expected to demolish enough of the house over the weekend to remove the dump truck from the house. The Sanderses are currently staying with friends in the beachfront neighborhood.

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