Single-car crash into tree kills 21-year-old woman along Mount Baker Highway

A 21-year-old Bellingham woman was killed when the 2003 Subaru station wagon she was driving Wednesday morning along the Mount Baker Highway left the roadway just west of Glacier, rolled and struck a tree. A 21-year-old female passenger in the car, who also was from Bellingham, was transported from the scene with injuries.

According to a Washington State Patrol release on the incident, Madeline R. Hurd was killed in the crash, while Gina L. Heuscher was injured and transported to St. Joseph hospital in Bellingham. An email to The Bellingham Herald from Rene Heuscher said her daughter had been released from the hospital without serious injury.

“Anytime you go on a call for a fatality accident with young people, like this, it’s the pits,” Whatcom County Fire District 14 Chief Jerry DeBruin told The Bellingham Herald.

According to PulsePoint, initial reports of the accident were received at 8:18 a.m. from 9844 Mount Baker Highway, approximately 2.7 miles west of Glacier near milepost 31.

According to the release, Hurd’s Subaru was headed eastbound on State Route 542, when it crossed the center line while rotating counterclockwise. The Subaru left the roadway, rolled onto the passenger side and came to rest against a large tree.”

“The roads were really bad with compact snow and ice,” DeBruin said. “It appears they lost control, went off the road and hit a big cottonwood tree that just didn’t have any give. ... We believe the driver was killed instantly, and it took quite a bit of effort to cut off the roof to get ... the patients out.”

DeBruin said the snow-packed, icy roads were “really bad” and estimated the area received between 3 and 4 inches of wet snow Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

“It is a bad area,” DeBruin said. “It’s shortly before you get into Glacier. You cross that narrow bridge and then there is a straight stretch. Some people pick up a little speed there, because it is straight. You also can get some ice there because there are a lot of trees ... and we got a pretty good drop of snow last night.”

Hurd and Gina Heuscher were wearing seat belts at the time of the crash, according to the State Patrol release, which cited the cause of the crash as going too fast for conditions.

Hurd and Gina Heuscher work at Mt. Baker Ski Area.

“Maddie was one of our instruction program supervisors, and she was a valued member of a very tight knit group of Mt. Baker Ski Area employees,” Mount Baker Executive Vice President and Operations Manager Gwyn Howat told The Bellingham Herald. “She touched the lives and shared her joy of the mountain with many kids and families through her work at the Ski Area. We have lost a friend, a co-worker and a dear member of the Mt. Baker mountain community.

“Those of us from the ski area community send our thoughts and true sympathies to Maddie’s family and her loved ones.”

Some of Hurd’s friends are organizing a candlelight vigil at 6 p.m. Thursday at Bellingham’s Laurel Park, Hannah Gundersen told The Bellingham Herald.

Hurd was a senior majoring in recreation at Western Washington University, according to a release Thursday from the school.

“Maddie Hurd was an amazing young woman, an excellent student and a wonderful friend to her fellow students,” WWU’s recreation program chair Keith Russell said in the release. “She was a recreation professional that was that was already making an impact on the lives of others. ... Our condolences go out to her family and friends in the recreation program and Mount Baker and Glacier community.”

WWU is providing counseling and support to friends and family that need it through Counseling Center during normal business hours (8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) at 360-650-3164. After-hours crisis support also is available at 360-650-3164 (selection option 1).

According to the Washington State Department of Transportation crash portal, the fatality is the first of 2019 on Whatcom County roadways. Wednesday’s fatality is the 10th along State Route 542 since 2010, according to the portal, with the last occurring on July 11 near Deming.

“It’s good to remind people — and I’m not saying speed was a factor here — but everybody needs to be careful,” DeBruin said. “There are icy patches, especially after a snow, but even frost can make the roads slick in spots. ... We all need to drive with caution.”

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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.