Local

Their SUV went off a 250-foot cliff near Mount Baker

McClatchy

A Sedro-Woolley teenager is facing driving under the influence charges in the wake of a crash Saturday night near the top of icy Mount Baker Highway, authorities said.

Washington State Patrol didn’t release the name of the boy because he is a minor, but a report on the incident indicated he was under the influence at the wheel of a gray 1998 Chevrolet Blazer that careened over a 250-foot embankment near milepost 51, on the steep section of road below Heather Meadows.

All four people in the car were rescued in a high-angle rope operation run by about 20 firefighters from the volunteer Whatcom County fire districts serving Glacier, Kendall and Welcome. Medical personnel from Bellingham Fire and Airlift Northwest also assisted during the rescue that took nearly 4 hours, said District 19 Chief Ben Thompson.

“That is a pretty treacherous spot,” Thompson said. “Those guys were really quite fortunate.”

Both the 16-year-old driver of the Blazer and a 17-year-old Blaine boy in the SUV went to St. Joseph hospital – one by ambulance and one by helicopter.

Neither were wearing a seatbelt, according to the report.

Also in the vehicle were Jasmin R. Scott, 19, of Bellingham, and Tiana R. Ramer, 18, Lynden. They denied injury but were taken to the hospital by ambulance as a precaution because of the severity of the wreck. Both were wearing seatbelts, the state patrol said.

Information on their conditions was not immediately known, but state Trooper Heather Axtman said Monday all four occupants’ injuries weren’t as serious as initially thought. She said the driving under the influence charges noted in the crash report were at the recommendation of a drug recognition expert at the scene and didn’t necessarily reflect alcohol consumption.

Authorities said the Blazer was a total loss – it remained at the bottom of the cliff and would be removed later.

Thompson said the crash was on a road that was slick with black ice from the cold snap that hit Whatcom County over the weekend. More than 8 inches of snow was on the ground at the site of the crash, and temperatures dipped below 30 degrees as firefighters worked in near-total darkness.

“Each one came up in a litter from the bottom,” Thompson said. Hypothermia was a constant concern for the patients, some of who may have been unconscious for a time, he said.

Thompson said the crash was on a curve that cuts across a talus slope at Galena Creek with a nearly 300-foot drop at a 70-degree angle.

Response time for firefighters was more than 30 minutes, Thompson said, because the crash was well outside the boundaries of both volunteer fire districts.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

  Comments