Crime

Lynden semi driver goes wrong way on I-5 to reach jackknifed truck

A Lynden semi truck driver was handed a $411 ticket for driving the wrong way on Interstate 5 in Bellingham to reach the scene of a coworker’s box truck that had crashed and jackknifed in a grassy median Wednesday, Jan. 14, according to the Washington State Patrol.

The first semi, a box truck hauling pears, had been going north on the freeway around 2:56 p.m. when a small car merged from the East Sunset Drive on-ramp, quickly changed lanes and cut off the truck, the driver and another witness told state troopers. The pear-stuffed semi, which weighed about 90,000 pounds with its total load, crashed into the median.

The driver, Kevin J. Van Zanten, 49, of the Lynden-based Van Zanten & Son trucking company wasn’t hurt. The pears did not spill out.

Cars managed to get by in at least one open lane until the truck was towed away around 5:30 p.m. But traffic was slow for hours while emergency responders worked to get the semi out.

In the meantime coworker Ronald D. Dooyema, 56, of Lynden, who had heard about the crash, drove his load-free semi to the scene — going south in the now nearly empty northbound lanes — apparently to help out, said Trooper Mark Francis. State Department of Transportation cameras showed the white semi tractor at the scene, facing the wrong way, near the jackknifed truck.

Dooyema told troopers there were no cars in the northbound lanes, but several 911 calls from panicked drivers suggested otherwise. He said he’d driven south for about a half-mile on the shoulder, from the Meridian Street exit, until he reached the crash scene, according to the state patrol.

A trooper ticketed Dooyema for driving the wrong way on the freeway. It’s an infraction, rather than a misdemeanor. The fine is $411.

Also, Van Zanten could face hit and run charges for damaging another semi’s mirror on the freeway in Skagit County. That driver’s truck had broken down near the Alger exit. It was on the right shoulder of northbound I-5 around 2:45 p.m. when a passing semi’s passenger side mirror hit his driver’s side mirror. Up in Bellingham, Van Zanten told law enforcement he’d heard a ping around then, but didn’t know that he’d hit anything.

According to Francis, Van Zanten told a trooper something to the effect of: “I’ve got that one and now this one, too? It’s just not my day.”

To which the trooper replied, “If you’d just stopped at the first crash, this one never would’ve happened.”

The name of the truck driver and the weight of the load of pears was corrected Jan. 15.

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