Central Whidbey collisions claim two South End lives

Emergency responders and police work the scene of a fatal accident on Highway 525 Thursday. It claimed the life of Ansara Miller

Two South Whidbey people were killed this week in separate accidents that occurred on the same stretch of highway on Central Whidbey.

Thursday afternoon, Ansara Miller, 20, died and two others were critically injured in a head-on collision on Highway 525 near Admiral’s Cove. Miller’s driver’s license listed Clinton as her residence.

On Tuesday, 82-year-old Charles E. Carlson, a Freeland resident, died in a single-car crash on Highway 20 near the Outlying Field in Coupeville, which is just before it merges with Highway 525.

Thursday, the crash blocked traffic in both directions on Whidbey Island’s main arterial for more than two hours.

Miller was traveling northbound shortly after noon when the Toyota Camry she was driving crossed the center line and struck a Lexus driven by Carl Pennington, 77, with his wife Soonie Pennington, 90, in the passenger seat, according to Mark Francis, spokesman for the Washington State Patrol.

The Penningtons, from Oak Harbor, were transported to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle to be treated for critical injuries. Soonie Pennington was listed in serious condition Friday morning, while Carl was upgraded to satisfactory condition, said Susan Gregg, a hospital spokeswoman.

An investigation by the state patrol lasted more than two hours, leaving cars backed up for miles. Both lanes of traffic reopened at about 2:30 p.m.

“There were drugs found at the scene,” Francis said Thursday. “They will be in the investigation as far as a factor in the cause.”

He declined to say what kind of drugs they were.

Linda Kendrick, a longtime medical professional, said she was driving southbound on Highway 525 when she approached the scene of the accident, got out of her car and tried to help before emergency units had arrived.

Kendrick said she first rushed to Miller, recognizing she had critical injuries, but couldn’t get to her because of the crumpled car.

When she went over to the Penningtons, Kendrick said she saw that both were seriously injured, but were conscious and talking, and not alone.

“There was a little white dog between them cradled in Carl’s arms,” Kendrick said.

As they waited for emergency personnel, Kendrick said she talked to the couple and asked them questions to keep them alert, and the three prayed together.

“Mostly, I was just trying to keep them calm and relaxed,” Kendrick said.

“They said they were headed down to Clinton to go crabbing. They said they didn’t know where the car came from, that it came out of nowhere.”

The dog, Skippy, was covered in blood, Kendrick said. It was picked up by Carol Barnes of Island County Animal Control and taken to Penn Cove Veterinary Clinic in Coupeville, where it was treated for lacerations and a concussion.

In Tuesday’s accident, Carlson was driving a 1992 Toyota Previa southward on the highway and drifted off the road to the right just south of the intersection at Welcher Road. He overcorrected, sending the vehicle over the centerline and off the roadway. The vehicle struck a tree and Carlson was ejected. Photo courtesy of Charlie Smith, deputy fire chief, Central Whidbey Fire & Rescue | A Freeland man, Charles E. Carlson, died this week in a one-car crash on Highway 525 on Central Whidbey.

Carlson, the only occupant, was killed. He was not wearing a seat belt, according to the state patrol.

Island County Coroner Robert Bishop notified his next of kin. He said Carlson had been living in Freeland with his daughter but had a Seattle address listed as his residence.

Thursday’s accident happened just south of Aloha Place on Highway 525, between Admirals Drive and Houston Road. It was at a stretch of the highway where there are no alternate routes to allow drivers to continue north or south.

Island Transit’s Route 1 bus, which travels from the Clinton ferry to Harbor Station in Oak Harbor, was stranded at the accident scene for more than two hours.

Some passengers were given rides to catch another bus in Coupeville, Island Transit driver Sandi Fox said.

The stretch of highway between Admiral’s Cove and North Bluff Road is the only major section of the state route where there are no detours. In other words, closure of that area completely shuts down traffic north or south.

“It’s the one place where there are no detours,” she said.

Charlie Smith, deputy fire chief with Central Whidbey Fire & Rescue, said the lack of an alternative route led to other problems as emergency units couldn’t respond to other calls while the highway was blocked.

County planners are aware of the problem. At a July planning commission meeting, county Public Works Director Bill Oakes discussed a possible $6.5 million road from Race Road to Houston Road, the so-called Race Road Bypass. It’s being proposed specifically to solve the issue, has been under discussion since at least mid-2012.

“That tragic accident stopped traffic for a significant amount of time and blocked things like transit and emergency response,” Oakes said yesterday. “That’s why we’re moving this project forward.”

The county has already begun to buy up right-of-way for the new road, which will be about 1.5 miles long, he said. Construction will likely begin next year or the year after, he said.