Tick the “Days since an accident” counter by the Washington State Patrol offices on U.S. Highway 101 back to zero.
On Monday morning, the second major wreck in two months claimed at least one life and left two more people in critical condition.
The crash, which occurred at around 8:30 a.m. on May 20, involved six people and three vehicles.
An initial report claimed that Stewart Wyckoff rear-ended a Honda Accord driven by 22-year-old Kayla Walls of Cedar City, Utah, causing her car to spin into a ditch on the south side of Highway 101.
Wyckoff’s truck was then hit by an eastbound Ford truck driven by Bryan Crawford, 52, of Port Angeles.
Washington State Trooper Russ Winger provided the Sequim Gazette with an updated narrative Tuesday morning, clarifying that all three vehicles were driving westbound and hit each other in a compounding pileup. Crawford’s Ford pickup rolled over and came to rest near the other cars on the south side of the road.
Crawford was killed in the crash, while Walls, Wyckoff and 20-year-old Corbin Reneman of Sequim were transported to Olympic Medical Center. John McMahon, a passenger in Crawford’s Ford, was transported to OMC and then airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. He is currently recuperating in good condition, according to an HMC nurse. Nicholas Crawford, 19, a passenger in Crawford’s pickup, was reportedly uninjured.
While the other passengers and drivers walked away from the wreck, the collision raised questions in the community as to whether or not the accidents were connected to the widening project on the corridor, which has narrowed the road in some places to mere feet between cars.
Winger said he is hesitant to say that the wrecks are related to the widening project, but says that state troopers will beef up monitoring on the problematic section of road.
“You can’t really connect all these collisions with this area specifically,” said Winger, who said that the cause of Monday’s wreck hasn’t yet been tied to the road work specifically.
Forty-four-year-old Ben Bymer, an employee at Sequim’s A-1 Auto Parts, says that traffic control around the construction area is being handled well, but drivers need to start paying more attention.
“It’s just an accident waiting to happen,” Bymer said.
He said that the distracting construction combined with high-speed vehicles, cars slowing down to turn and drivers distracted by electronics creates a kind of perfect storm of bad conditions.
“When I am taking parts (westbound), I am very nervous,” Bymer said.
Other drivers who live in the area agree with Bymer and only take Highway 101 if they have to. Lauren Halloway, who works at Hurricane Coffee and Nash’s Organic Produce, routinely has to turn onto Highway 101 from Dryke Road each morning. While she’s not worried about the widening project specifically, she says that she’s seen backups happen while people slow down to look at the construction, mostly during rush-hour traffic.
Winger, the state trooper, said, “If we see some parallels between these collisions, we’ll start developing a plan to reduce the speed.”
Until then, he said, drivers might want to give a little more than four seconds between themselves and the cars in front of them.