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Driver, 19, unhurt when car crashes off I-5, stops inches from Bellingham house

A car came within inches of plowing into a Bellingham duplex Monday evening, Jan. 12, when a 19-year-old driver crashed off a steep embankment along Interstate 5.

Spencer Strickland, 19, of Bellingham, said his ’98 Volvo was going about 70 mph north on the freeway around 5:10 p.m. when another car — doing about 45 mph, he estimated — merged in front of him at the King Street on-ramp. Strickland slammed on his brakes and lost control, he said. His car went off the freeway to the right, spinning roughly 60 feet downhill through thick blackberry bushes, through a chain-link fence and into a tiny backyard at 932 York Street. Another foot further, and the Volvo would’ve been in the wall.

“I heard crunching blackberry bushes, and I was like, ‘Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope,’” said Hannah Reis, 20, who was in the living room.

Reis, a junior at Western Washington University, opened the sliding glass door to find the badly banged up black Volvo, now facing south, on all four wheels at the foot of the duplex’s short concrete back porch. Strickland had hardly a scratch on him. He was, all things considered, in a chipper mood minutes after the crash.

“I’m 19 and invincible,” he joked to a reporter. “It could have been considerably worse. So I’d give it about an eight out of 10.”

It’s the second crash this month off the King Street on-ramp, the route north from Lakeway Drive. In fact, as of two of weeks ago there had been a guardrail on that stretch of northbound I-5. But it was taken out by a semi truck that rolled into the same embankment on the afternoon of Jan. 2. There were no serious injuries in that crash, either.

A Washington State Patrol trooper was investigating the cause of the crash Monday.

Strickland said he’d been driving home from his parents’ house in Marysville.

“My dad had told me Volvos are safe,” he said. “I didn’t really believe him.”