Driver who authorities say caused devastating wreck may have fled earlier hit-run

Bernetta B. Scully of Sumas and a teenage passenger were injured when another car crossed into their lane and hit them head-on Tuesday night south of Sumas.
Bernetta B. Scully of Sumas and a teenage passenger were injured when another car crossed into their lane and hit them head-on Tuesday night south of Sumas. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Three people were injured in a crash late Tuesday south of Sumas, including a teenage boy and a man who could face felony charges if he survives, authorities said.

All three of the injured were taken by ambulance to St. Joseph hospital in Bellingham, according to a Washington State Patrol report.

“We were able to scoop and run right away with the first one,” said Chief Jerry DeBruin of Whatcom County Fire District 14. “It took us about 20 minutes to extricate the (boy). We had so much metal to move.”

Tre J. Cherochak, 25, of Everson, was in critical condition with life threatening injuries late Tuesday, authorities said.

Cherochak, who wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, was thrown from his car after he drifted into the oncoming lane and hit another car on southbound Easterbrook Road near Morgan Road at 9:15 p.m. Tuesday.

He is suspected of being involved in a separate hit-run incident in Sumas just before the wreck, authorities said.

Henry Ruiz, 16, of Sumas, a passenger in the car that Cherochak hit, was also listed in critical condition Tuesday. He was trapped in the mangled wreckage and firefighters had to use hydraulic tools to cut him free, DeBruin said.

Some 20 firefighters from three agencies worked to help the injured, DeBruin said, adding Whatcom County Fire District 1 also responded, along with Bellingham Fire’s Medic One and Fire District 7, who rushed the two most seriously injured patients to the hospital.

Both Cherochak and the teen were flown by helicopter to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, a St. Joseph hospital official said. Both remained in critical condition Wednesday in the intensive care unit at Harborview.

Friends established a fund for the teen’s medical care at People’s Bank, account No. 6049035378, or at PayPal in his name, paypal.me/HenryRuiz946.

State patrol Trooper Heather Axtman described Cherochak’s injuries as grave. She said Ruiz suffered two broken legs and was expected to survive.

Driver of the car, Bernetta B. Scully, 47, of Sumas, was treated and released Tuesday, a St. Joseph hospital official said.

Scully suffered a broken ankle, Axtman said.

Tre J. Cherochak of Everson was thrown from his 2014 Honda Accord as it rolled into a field south of Sumas. Roger DeBruin / Whatcom County Fire District 14 Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Cherochak is suspected of being under the influence of both drugs and alcohol in the wreck, Axtman said.

It happened where East Badger Road curves north and becomes Easterbrook Road. The road is state Highway 9 at that location, just east of Nooksack Valley High.

Speed limit is 50 mph, but Axtman said Cherochak was traveling at “a high rate of speed.”

According to the state patrol report, Cherochak was southbound on Highway 9 in a 2014 Honda Accord when he crossed the center line and hit Scully’s northbound 2014 Chrysler 300 near Morgan Road south of the city limits.

Both Scully and Ruiz were wearing seatbelts, the report said.

DeBruin said the force of the impact spun Scully’s car around and left it blocking the roadway amid a trail of debris from both cars.

He said Cherochak’s car flipped and rolled several hundred feet into a rain-soaked field east of Easterbrook Road. Cherochak was thrown from the side window or out the rear window, he said.

What was left of both cars was towed to the state patrol office in Bellingham.

Charges of misdemeanor hit-run and felony vehicular assault against Cherochak are pending, authorities said.

Chief Daniel DeBruin of the Sumas Police Department said Cherochak is suspected in a hit-run collision about 9 p.m. in the parking lot of Bob’s Burgers and Brew, 819 Cherry St.

Damage to the other car was unknown, but Daniel DeBruin said it was “reportable,” meaning the car would cost more than $1,000 to repair.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty