Updated at 5:30 p.m. See below for original post..
BELLINGHAM — A 21-year-old man was taken to St. Joseph hospital with neck and back pain Thursday afternoon, Nov. 7, after a crash on southbound Interstate 5 brought traffic to a near standstill for more than an hour in Bellingham.
The injured man, Leonid S. Streltsov, of Bellingham, couldn't remember what happened in the moments leading up to the crash at 2:56 p.m., according to the Washington State Patrol. He may have passed out, causing his red Ford car to swerve from the right lane into the center lane, near the exit to Iowa and State streets, said Trooper Mark Francis. (There are three lanes there for a brief stretch.)
A second red Ford car in the center lane, at a staggered angle behind the first red Ford, struck the back side of Streltsov's car and sent it spinning into the shoulder, Francis said. The back passenger's side of the second Ford then got hit by the right front side of an oncoming semi truck.
Both cars were totaled.
But all drivers emerged from the wreck with surprisingly minor injuries, Francis said.
A trooper followed Streltsov to the hospital to check on his condition. His injuries weren't life-threatening and he will probably be cited for improper lane travel, Francis said. The driver of the second Ford, Leroy I. Cozine, 43, of Bellingham, had a bloody nose but walked away from the crash, declining medical aid.
The semi driver, Carstin G. Currie, 60, needed to swap out a flat tire and then was on his way.
At the traffic jam's worst, cars stretched end-to-end for about three miles, almost to the Northwest Avenue exit.
Firefighters cleaned up a large gasoline spill from the road.
(At the time of this post, the model and year of the two red Ford cars weren't available.)
BELLINGHAM — A crash on southbound Interstate 5 near the State Street exit brought traffic to a near standstill for miles at 3 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7.
From our @BhamCrime Twitter feed:
Crash on southbound I-5 at State St. Here's the view from the Iowa St. exit. pic.twitter.com/0YQkOER0Dw — Bellingham Crime (@bhamcrime) November 7, 2013
Scanner: "Large amount of gasoline on the ground" at scene of SB I-5 crash. And a large traffic jam. pic.twitter.com/fkEROlGL5j — Bellingham Crime (@bhamcrime) November 7, 2013
The view of SB I-5 from Sunset Drive. Reportedly no serious injuries, but occupant needs to be cut out of vehicle. pic.twitter.com/X7hjvyXaZR — Bellingham Crime (@bhamcrime) November 7, 2013
One lane open. But it's slow-going. pic.twitter.com/ZManMFIDNB — Bellingham Crime (@bhamcrime) November 7, 2013
Firefighters were dispatched to what was termed a "non-injury" crash. I'm awaiting a call back from the Washington State Patrol for details on the cause of the crash, and the severity of any injuries. So far — as stated above — we've heard no reports of anyone seriously hurt.
The state Department of Transportation's traffic cams showed backups snaking more than three miles, well past Meridian Street.
Firefighters were using hazardous materials equipment to sop up the spilled gasoline.
Update at 4:07 p.m. About an hour after the crash, all lanes of southbound I-5 reopened.
All lanes back open SB I-5 in Bellingham. — WSDOT Traffic (@wsdot_traffic) November 8, 2013