Man sentenced for Mount Baker Highway crash that injured couple

Laura, left, and Marty Thawsh were hurt in a crash on New Year’s Day near Deming. The driver who hit their car was sentenced May 11 to 14 months in prison.
Laura, left, and Marty Thawsh were hurt in a crash on New Year’s Day near Deming. The driver who hit their car was sentenced May 11 to 14 months in prison. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

A Deming man must serve 14 months in prison for a head-on crash that seriously injured a husband and wife on Mount Baker Highway, a judge ruled Wednesday, May 11.

The couple, Marty Thawsh, 68, and Laura Thawsh, 63, had driven north from their home in Mount Vernon to go geocaching on New Year’s Day.

Around 1 p.m. they were headed west in their Honda CRV on Mount Baker Highway, en route to watch the eagles that feast on salmon in the Nooksack River. Then an eastbound Ford pickup crossed the center line, near State Route 9.

They crashed head-on.

Mr. Thawsh suffered fractures to his femur, tibia, fibula and spine. He was rushed to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle in critical condition. Mrs. Thawsh’s spine and tibia were fractured, and she had internal chest injuries. One of their dogs, a female Chihuahua mix, died in the crash. Another dog, a male terrier mix, was hurt but survived.

The pickup driver, Jake Adam Dubbs, 32, suffered relatively minor injuries.

The first person to stop and help saw Dubbs appeared to be having a seizure, said Deputy Prosecutor Christopher Quinn.

At the scene he told a state trooper he’d stayed up until 6 a.m. and slept past noon. Troopers noted an “immediate strong and obvious odor of intoxicants” on him, according to charging papers.

He was booked into jail that evening.

Toxicology tests came back negative for alcohol, but positive for tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. The lab found 11 nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood, over twice the legal limit to drive.

Dubbs had been using medical cannabis to treat his seizures, said Darrin Hall, his public defender. The evidence, Hall said, suggested a “catastrophic” emergency, like a seizure, may have been the direct cause of the crash, rather than the fact that he’d been driving high.

Given his medical condition, however, Dubbs showed disregard for the safety of others when he got behind the wheel, Hall said.

Dubbs pleaded guilty in March to two counts of vehicular assault. Under state sentencing guidelines the standard prison sentence is 12 to 16 months, for someone with Dubbs’ criminal history. Dubbs had one felony on his adult record, for drug delivery. As part of the plea he agreed to admit to driving under the influence in Whatcom County District Court.

The Thawshes continue to recover from their injuries. Mrs. Thawsh spent weeks at St. Joseph hospital; Mr. Thawsh was hospitalized for months. He attended Wednesday’s sentencing hearing in a wheelchair. The couple’s grown children delivered statements on their behalf.

In court Dubbs apologized to the family. He said he had been praying for them.

Superior Court Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis handed down a sentence of 14 months, as suggested by the plea deal.

Caleb Hutton: 360-715-2276, @bhamcaleb