Whatcom man hospitalized after near head-on collision with semi

A 67-year-old Maple Falls man is in the Intensive Care Unit at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle after the car he was driving collided with a tractor-trailer nearly head-on Sunday afternoon on Highway 9 in Skagit County.

Joseph E. Zilinek was listed in critical condition, Harborview spokesperson Susan Gregg told The Bellingham Herald in an interview Monday.

Washington State Patrol Trooper Heather Axtman told The Bellingham Herald in an interview Monday that Zillinek was airlifted to Harborview with what was believed to be a fractured skull.

“The good news is he was stable enough to be airlifted,” Axtman told The Herald. “They have to be fairly stable to be airlifted. I don’t know the full extent of his injuries, but in a crash like this with a semi, the car is always going to lose.”

According to the State Patrol report on the crash, Zilinek was driving a blue 2017 Subaru Impreza northbound on Highway 9 at approximately 2:43 p.m. Sunday when he crossed the center line for an unknown reason.

A black 2014 Transcraft semi and trailer driven by 32-year-old Manjeet Brar of Abbottsford, B.C., attempted to avoid the collision and struck the guardrail, but the two vehicles collided, driver’s side tire to driver’s side tire, the report said. Zillinek’s Subaru came to rest in the roadside ditch, while the semi stopped along the guardrail, blocking the roadway.

Drugs and alcohol were not thought to be a factor in the crash, according to the report, and both drivers were using seat belts.

“We’re still investigating,” Axtman told The Herald. “We don’t know if it was a medical situation or what was going on in the car at the time it crossed over the center line.”

David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.