2 injured in Slater Road crash; alcohol suspected

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 3, 2013 

— FERNDALE — State troopers believe a drunk driver caused a head-on crash that injured two people Friday afternoon, May 3, near the Slater Road bridge over the Nooksack River.

Caley Tracey, 41, of Abbotsford, B.C., said he was driving a Volkswagen Jetta east near the bridge at 3:20 p.m. when he looked in his rearview mirror to see a car approaching at an alarming speed. A silver Ford Focus slammed into the back of the Jetta — at a speed that, in Tracey's best estimate, seemed like twice the 50 mph speed limit — sending both cars into oncoming traffic.

Other than whiplash, the four occupants of the Jetta escaped unscathed. But the Focus collided head-on with a westbound white Ford Escape. The impact pushed the Focus on top of a guardrail, leaving its back wheels hanging in the air. The front end crunched from the impact; the windshield shattered and peeled away.

"I'm telling you, man," Tracey said, surveying the wreckage. "It's … brutal."

Firefighters needed to cut away pieces of the Focus to free Neville N. Kumar, 36, of Surrey, B.C. Troopers noticed a strong odor of alcohol on him. He admitted to drinking, and a warrant was obtained for a blood draw, said Washington State Patrol Trooper Mark Francis. For now, Kumar faces charges of driving under the influence, Francis said.

He was taken to St. Joseph hospital, then driven to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle with serious injuries. Troopers don't believe his life is in danger.

The driver of the Escape, Bruce D. White, 52, of Bellingham, was taken to St. Joseph hospital by ambulance for injuries not consid-ered life-threatening.

A fourth car, a gold Mercury Sable headed westbound, crashed into the passenger side of the Escape but didn't cause much damage. Aaron Kinley said he was tailing the Escape at a few cars' length when, all of a sudden, he saw the Focus swerve into the westbound lane.

"He just bolted over," said Kinley, who was on his way to work at the Silver Reef Casino. Both lanes on that stretch of Slater Road were blocked for hours.

Reach Caleb Hutton at 360-715-2276 or caleb.hutton@bellinghamherald.com. Read his dispatcher blog at blogs.bellinghamherald.com/dispatcher or follow him on Twitter at @bhamcrime.

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