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1 killed, up to 5 injured in crash near Mount Vernon, blocking southbound I-5 lanes

Crash closes all southbound lanes of Interstate 5 near Conway

Southbound I-5 traffic was backed up for more than 6 miles, from Conway to the southern city limits of Mount Vernon the morning of April 30, 2019. One person was dead and several people were injured in a crash.
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Southbound I-5 traffic was backed up for more than 6 miles, from Conway to the southern city limits of Mount Vernon the morning of April 30, 2019. One person was dead and several people were injured in a crash.

A box truck slammed into a van stopped for traffic in a construction zone on southbound Interstate 5 near Conway early Tuesday, then ignited into an inferno that trapped and killed the van driver, the Washington State Patrol said.

Trooper Heather Axtman told The Bellingham Herald that the box truck drove over the top of the van, crushing it and starting a chain-reaction crash that involved six more cars and closed the southbound lanes for approximately six hours.

“The box truck was engulfed in flames after rear-ending the van,” Axtman said in a phone interview from the scene. “The box truck driver was able to get out, but unfortunately the person in the van was not.”

Axtman said four or five people suffered injuries that weren’t life-threatening, and an ambulance took at least one person to a nearby hospital.

None of the dead or injured were identified, pending an investigation that was expected to take several hours, Axtman said.

State Patrol detectives are seeking witnesses to the crash, according to a statement issued about 12:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Anyone who has any information about the collision is asked to contact , Detective Sgt. Jason Kraus at 360-870-4598 or jason.kraus@wsp.wa.gov or Detective Russ Haake at russ.haake@wsp.wa.gov or 425-401-7717.

Morning commute traffic backed up more than six miles into the southern outskirts of Mount Vernon as both southbound lanes were closed after the 5:35 a.m. crash.

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Officials investigate the scene of the crash Tuesday morning, April 30, 2019, on southbound Interstate 5 south of Mount Vernon. Washington State Patrol

Photos showed cars being routed off the freeway near Pioneer Highway, also called Highway 534.

Axtman said freeway frontage routes were jammed with cars by about 7:30 a.m. as drivers sought a way around the crash.

Video from the scene showed several fire engines and ambulances.

It was difficult to see the van under the truck’s burned-out cab.

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Washington State Patrol Trooper Heather Axtman tweeted a Department of Transportation traffic cam photo of the fatal crash Tuesday morning, April 30, 2019, on southbound Interstate 5 south of Mount Vernon. Washington Department of Transportation Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Officials from the state Department of Transportation tweeted about 5:30 a.m., just before the crash, that an overnight construction project in the area was just wrapping up and that early commuters were experiencing delays.

Both lanes of traffic opened again approximately 11:30 a.m., WSDOT tweeted.

Axtman said it was was too soon to tell what caused the crash and whether road construction was a factor.

Robert Mittendorf covers civic issues, weather, traffic and how people are coping with the high cost of housing for The Bellingham Herald. A journalist since 1984, he’s also a volunteer firefighter for South Whatcom Fire Authority.
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