Police: Intoxicated Bellingham man caused crash that injured teen


BELLINGHAM - A 20-year-old driver faces charges of drunkenly crashing into a tree this weekend near downtown Bellingham, leaving a teenage passenger with a broken arm.

Witnesses told police a northbound car appeared to be going 50 to 60 mph down North Forest Street at 5:25 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 3, before running a red light at the five-way intersection with York and Ellis streets, said Bellingham Police Sgt. Jason Monson. The '98 Honda Accord lurched over a curb before crashing head-on into a tree, mere feet short of an embankment that slopes into Whatcom Creek.

Five people were in the car. One of them, a 14-year-old girl seated behind the driver, suffered a broken arm.

Police suspect someone from the car threw a bottle of alcohol into the nearby brush. One occupant got out, picked up the bottle and ran away before officers arrived, according to witness statements. No further details about that person were available Monday.

Two other teens remained on scene. They didn't suffer any injuries and were not arrested, Monson said.

Officers arrested the driver, Christopher Rex Burke, 20, of Bellingham, on suspicion of vehicular assault and driving with a license suspended in the third degree. Police got a warrant for a blood draw, to determine his level of intoxication.

Burke was briefly treated at St. Joseph hospital, then booked into Whatcom County Jail. He was being held in lieu of $20,000 bail. He also had warrants out for his arrest for failing to show up to court on prior charges of illegal possession of alcohol and marijuana.

Anyone who witnessed the crash - or the fleeing passenger - can contact Bellingham police at 360-778-8800. For urgent tips after business hours, call 911.

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

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