A high-speed T-bone crash in Bellingham left a car sheared in half, a woman in critical condition and a man in jail late Sunday, Jan. 10.
State troopers in Bellingham were notified around 10 p.m. of a car, with no headlights on, traveling close to 100 mph on Interstate 5.
Police believe the car, a gray ’06 Hyundai Azera, exited onto Northwest Avenue and circled through the roundabout. Moments later, at West Bakerview Road, a northbound Hyundai smashed into a gray 1990 Volvo station wagon carrying a young couple that had just left the airport, said Bellingham Police Sgt. Mike Scanlon.
The Hyundai struck the eastbound Volvo near its midpoint, missing the front seats by inches, police said. On impact the Volvo sheared almost in half and came to a rest on its side.
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“The car just exploded,” Scanlon said.
A wheel shot through the window of the nearby Heritage Bank. The next morning one of the Volvo’s doors was found on the roof of the bank.
A Bellingham police officer reached the scene within seconds to find a “portion of a vehicle” in the road, said Deputy Prosecutor Evan Jones. Katherine Robins, 20, was unconscious in the front passenger seat of the Volvo. She had suffered bleeding in the brain, a lacerated spleen, a lacerated liver, a fractured clavicle, fractured ribs, and a punctured lung, according to the Whatcom County prosecutor’s office.
At first police were unsure if Robins would live. She was stabilized at St. Joseph hospital and by late Monday afternoon her condition had been upgraded from critical to serious, a hospital spokeswoman said.
The driver of the Volvo, a 21-year-old man, had cuts and scrapes but no serious injuries.
The Hyundai driver ran northeast from the scene, leaving blood and hair embedded in the front windshield, according to the prosecutor’s office. Police phoned the car’s registered owner. She reported that her son, John Reinard Owens, 38, had borrowed the car. Officers searched the neighborhood with a police dog but could not find him.
Over an hour later Owens emerged from the woods near his home in the 4700 block of Aldrich Road, about 1 ½ miles north of the crash scene. He had a bloody injury to his scalp and shards of glass in his hands, Scanlon said.
Officers got a warrant for a blood draw, to determine if Owens had drugs or alcohol in his system. He was taken to Whatcom County Jail around 3:30 a.m.
This is the fourth time Owens has been booked into jail since late November 2015. Other recent charges include unlawful carrying of a weapon, second-degree criminal impersonation, driving under the influence, and failure to appear for a court date.
Owens also has one felony conviction on his record for possessing Vicodin without a prescription in 2012.
On Monday in a jail courtroom, Owens wore a bandage soaked through with blood on his forehead. His eyes looked bleary. He pressed his fingers to his forehead, and he stared open-mouthed at his hands — turning his palms over again and again — as he waited his turn in front of a Superior Court commissioner. He faces charges of vehicular assault and felony hit and run.
The commissioner, Alfred Heydrich, explained those charges to Owens: “You are accused of driving a car, getting in an accident and causing serious injury to another person.” Heydrich asked Owens if the explanation made sense.
“Does it?” Owens whispered to his public defender, Lydia Koroma.
The deputy prosecutor, Evan Jones, outlined Owens’ driving history: three prior DUI convictions in 1993, 2000 and 2008; ignition interlock violations from ’09 and ’13; and convictions for reckless endangerment in ’93 and reckless driving in ’97.
Jail records show Owens had been arrested on New Year’s Day on suspicion of DUI. He was released from jail on $5,000 bond on Jan. 7.
Heydrich set bail Monday at $250,000.