A head-on crash between a dump truck and a Mercury Cougar sent a young man to St. Joseph hospital with serious injuries Friday morning, Aug. 16, north of Bellingham.
Robert Peyton Auras, 22, the driver of a southbound Mercury Cougar, swerved over the center line of Hannegan Road about 11:30 a.m., side-swiping an oncoming Lexus RX 350 just south of the intersection with Ten Mile Road, said Washington State Patrol Trooper Jeff MacDonald.
Karen Lindquist, of Arlington, a passenger in the Lexus headed to the Lynden fair with her husband, then witnessed the red Mercury collide head-on into a braking dump truck behind her. It sent the car airborne, she said, over a short but steep embankment. The impact demolished the front end of the Mercury — exposing the inner workings of the engine, and mangling doors, the hood and the frame around the windshield. Auras clambered out the sunroof.
“He kept saying his friend was in there, his friend was in there,” Lindquist said. “But they searched and searched, and there was nobody else.”
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In the wreckage, troopers found a cellphone with an open, unfinished text message. It seemed “quite possible” Auras had been distracted by texting, said Trooper Patrick Williams. But the official cause, he cautioned, remained under investigation.
Auras told troopers he wasn’t on the phone, according to the state patrol. He had some recent problems with unexpectedly passing out, so troopers were looking into that angle, too.
An ambulance took Auras to St. Joseph hospital. He was in satisfactory condition Friday afternoon.
The dump truck driver, Richard Vanderhage, 60, from Dahlgren Excavating, didn’t suffer any serious injuries. He remained on scene but declined to speak with a reporter.
One lane of traffic was open during an investigation.