Highway 525 crash sends two to hospital as ‘precautionary measure’

Two people were transported to WhidbeyHealth following a rear-end collision on Highway 525 near Coles Road on Wednesday afternoon.

According to emergency responders, the two-car crash occurred shortly before 5 p.m. when a southbound white Cadillac Escalade EXT SUV slammed into the back of an Audi as it was waiting to turn onto Coles Road. The Cadillac was driven by Freeland resident Nichole Buchanan while Langley resident Samantha Baldwin was in the Audi.

According to a police report, Buchanan admitted to smoking marijuana two hours before the crash. The responding Island County Sheriff’s Office deputy also found two marijuana pipes within “easy reach” of the driver.

Both vehicles slid across the median and came to a halt just off the road. The woman driving the Escalade was able to exit her vehicle unassisted, but emergency responders had to help the other driver out of her car. The Audi driver was later placed in a stretcher and transported to the hospital in a WhidbeyHealth ambulance; the other woman was taken to the hospital as well. Jon Gabelein, public information officer for South Whidbey Fire/EMS, said they were taken as a precautionary measure, adding that the Audi driver was “very shaken up.”

“It looks like one car was stopped and the other person behind did not stop,” Gabelein said. “…It looks like a simple accident at this point.”

Gabelein estimated the Escalade driver was going close to “highway speed” at the moment of impact — around 55 miles per hour. The damage sustained by the Audi appeared to be severe, as the back half was smashed.

“Even when it’s bright and sunny during the day, we still need to be careful,” Gabelein said. “…We just need to make sure we’re all paying attention.”

Deputy Grant Walker of the Island County Sheriff’s Office called it a “classic” Coles Road crash because of its propensity for rear-end crashes.

“This happens far too many times,” Walker said. “You know the story after a while.”

Walker said there wasn’t enough information at the time to comment on whether the crash was caused by neglect on the Escalade driver’s part. He said determing that will require some follow-up interviews with both drivers.

He added that transporting the drivers to the hospital is an important precaution.

“Anytime you have a collision like this, you’re going to have the potential for more injuries,” Walker said. “You’ve got adrenaline pumping and stuff like that going, you may not even realize that you’re hurt until the next day. It’s always better to get checked out than not.”

Freeland resident Thorin Helmersen witnessed the crash. Helmersen was returning home from a class at Skagit Valley College when he saw the Audi stopped near Coles Road waiting to turn across the intersection. As he drove past, he saw the Escalade slam into the Audi at “full speed” and with no brakes.

“I just heard the bang and this screech of metal,” Helmersen said.

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