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Investigation probes if ‘mechanical issue’ or ‘human failure’ caused deadly I-5 crash

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 preliminary investigation shows that a Tulalip man driving a box truck plowed through traffic in a construction zone, landing atop a van at the rear of the line of cars and slamming into five more vehicles early Tuesday on southbound Interstate 5 near Conway.

As cars were pushed into one another, either the van or the truck cab burst into flames, killing the driver of a white 2005 Chevrolet Astro van who was pinned in the wreckage, a Washington State Patrol report said.

That man’s identity had not been released Wednesday morning, Trooper Heather Axtman told The Bellingham Herald.

The driver of the box truck was 54-year-old Steve Beltran of Tulalip, according to the state patrol’s initial crash report.

No charges were filed pending the investigation, the report said.

Axtman said the state patrol’s Major Accident Investigation Team is handling the case because a commercial vehicle was involved.

“They’ll be looking at whether there was a mechanical issue or if it was a human failure,” Axtman told The Herald.

In addition, the State Patrol is seeking witnesses to the 5:30 a.m. Tuesday crash near Pioneer Highway, also called Highway 534.

Because all the victims were hit from behind, none of them saw the events that led to the collision, Axtman said.

“(The MAIT) is still seeking witnesses,” Axtman said.

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.

Ambulances took two people to Skagit Valley Hospital, but their injuries weren’t life-threatening, Axtman said.

Morning commute traffic backed up more than six miles into Mount Vernon, as all southbound lanes were closed for six hours.

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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