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‘To have two fatal crashes on the same road come within days of each other, it’s just bizarre’

More than 100 motorcyclists pay tribute to Bellingham woman who died Sunday

More than 100 motorcyclists gathered at Greenacres Memorial Park in Ferndale, Wash., on Thursday, May 23, 2019, to pay tribute to Penny Jefferson – a member of Lummi Nation who died in a motorcycle accident earlier this week.
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More than 100 motorcyclists gathered at Greenacres Memorial Park in Ferndale, Wash., on Thursday, May 23, 2019, to pay tribute to Penny Jefferson – a member of Lummi Nation who died in a motorcycle accident earlier this week.

Known as a slow, scenic, rural road, Mosquito Lake Road is among several drives in Washington state profiled on myscenicdrives.com. The 14-mile drive between Acme and Welcome winds its way past farms and ranches, a couple of lakes and even over the Middle Fork of the Nooksack River on a 1950s steal truss bridge on the National List of Historical Sites.

The road used to be a shortcut to Mount Baker, according to the website, but is now a favorite for sightseers out on sunny days in the foothills of the North Cascades.

Unfortunately, the road has become known for a much more tragic reason the past two weekends.

Penny R. Jefferson, a 20-year-old member of the Lummi Nation and a Native American student adviser with the Ferndale School District, was killed May 19 when the 2014 Kawasaki EX650EF motorcycle she was riding failed to negotiate a curve along Mosquito Lake Road and struck a power pole.

Less than seven days later, Linda C. Loney, a 68-year-old from Granite Falls, died after the 2006 Harley Davidson Fltcuse motorcycle she was a passenger on failed to negotiate another corner along the road and hit a guardrail on Sunday, May 26. Gerald F. McConnell, a 62-year-old from Granite Falls who was driving also was injured in the crash and was taken to St. Joseph hospital.

“I was in dispatch when the one came in Sunday, and I was like, ‘No way, we just had one on that road,” Washington State Patrol Trooper Heather Axtman told The Bellingham Herald. “To have two fatal crashes on the same road come within days of each other, it’s just bizarre.”

Despite the past two weekends, Mosquito Lake Road is not known as a particularly dangerous road for motorcyclists.

According to data on the Washington State Department of Transportation crash portal, there were 25 fatal crashes involving a motorcycle on Whatcom County roadways between 2010 and 2018. Of those, none occurred on Mosquito Lake Road.

In fact, during that same nine-year period, there were only two accidents involving motorcycles on Mosquito Lake Road — both occurring in 2011 and each producing only minor injuries.

“Unfortunately, I can’t give you anything more in-depth about why these accidents happened the last two weekends,” Axtman said. “We really don’t know if there were any similarities at this point.”

Axtman said the similarities the State Patrol has found include:

Both single-vehicle crashes involved failing to negotiate a curve, and the State Patrol cited speed as the cause of each crash.

Both crashes occurred on sunny spring days.

The crashes happened within less than two miles of each other on Mosquito Lake Road.

Both drivers were licensed and relatively experienced on a motorcycle and all riders involved were wearing helmets.

Both motorcyclists were part of a group out enjoying the ride.

“They were just experienced riders out with a group of friends enjoying a sunny day and it ended in tragedy,” Axtman told The Herald. “Unfortunately, I don’t have anything earth-shattering about why this happened. I just know it’s really sad for their families and the people they were out riding with. Their fellow riders in each group are forever changed in a devastating way.”

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.
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