Crime

Deputy uses patrol car to stop runaway UPS truck in Bellingham

A Whatcom County sheriff’s deputy, Colin Bertrand, stopped a runaway UPS truck with his patrol car Tuesday, June 30, 2015, on Coho Way in Bellingham. The delivery truck driver, 61, suffered a stroke.
A Whatcom County sheriff’s deputy, Colin Bertrand, stopped a runaway UPS truck with his patrol car Tuesday, June 30, 2015, on Coho Way in Bellingham. The delivery truck driver, 61, suffered a stroke. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

A Whatcom County sheriff’s deputy stopped a runaway UPS truck by blocking it with his patrol car this week on Coho Way in Bellingham.

Deputy Colin Bertrand was passing by Squalicum Harbor on routine patrol around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 30, when he saw a delivery truck weaving back and forth across the centerline in the 2800 block of Roeder Avenue, according to the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office. Then the truck swerved west onto Coho Way, hitting a curb and almost crashing head-on into an oncoming car.

As Bertrand sped up alongside the truck, he saw the driver slumped over the steering wheel. So in a brief moment when the driver’s foot came off the gas pedal, Bertrand passed the truck and blocked its path with his marked car. The truck crashed into the front passenger side of the patrol car in the intersection of Coho and North Harbor Loop, causing about $4,000 in damage, according to the sheriff’s office.

Bertrand wasn’t hurt. He jumped out and gave first aid to the driver, identified by friends as Duane Merrick, 61. Merrick was taken to St. Joseph hospital.

Merrick suffered a stroke, said Gunnar Birkeland, a coworker.

Merrick built up a sparkling driving record in 38 years as a UPS deliveryman, Birkeland said.

“We’re all just hoping that he’ll be able to come back,” he said. “Everyone who’s visited him in the hospital says he’s been in tremendous spirits.”

Merrick was in satisfactory condition as of Thursday.

Coho Way, on Bellingham’s marina waterfront, is lined with shops on one side and a large parking lot on the other. In a media release the sheriff’s office credited Bertrand’s quick thinking and training for preventing “what could have been a tragic outcome.”

Reach Caleb Hutton at 360-715-2276 or caleb.hutton@bellinghamherald.com. Read the Dispatcher blog at bellinghamherald.com/dispatcher-blog and follow him on Twitter at @bhamcaleb.

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