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Bellingham teen cited for crashing car off I-5, stopping inches short of duplex

A Bellingham teen was handed a $175 ticket this week for crashing off Interstate 5 and coming within inches of plowing into a York Street duplex, according to the Washington State Patrol.

Spencer Strickland, 19, said his black ’98 Volvo was going north at about 70 mph around 5:10 p.m. Monday, Jan. 12, when a slower car merged in front of him and cut him off at the on-ramp from Lakeway Drive.

A witness, Nikki Ayers, 29, of Bellingham, told the Herald this week she was tailing the merging car. She said the Volvo came “flying up the rear-view mirror” at a speed well above 70 mph. The Volvo driver, she said, wouldn’t let the other car merge even as the on-ramp came to an end.

“He was driving like a buffoon,” Ayers said.

Clouds of smoke kicked up when Strickland slammed on the brakes. His car slid all over the road, then lurched down a roughly 60-foot embankment of thick blackberry bushes on the right side of the freeway. The Volvo tore through a chain-link fence and came to a stop within a foot of a living room wall at 932 York Street. Ayers said she pulled over, called 911, and saw Strickland down below with his hands in the air, in awe he was alive. He had hardly a scratch on him.

Ayers said the Washington State Patrol hasn’t contacted her to get a witness report, as of Friday evening. From her perspective, she said, the crash was clearly Strickland’s fault, not the other driver’s.

Trooper Mark Francis said Strickland had been cited for driving with his wheels off the road, a $175 ticket.

“It could have been considerably worse,” Strickland told a reporter at the scene Monday evening. “I’d give it about an eight out of 10.”

A guardrail had been ripped out a week-and-a-half earlier when a semi truck crashed into the same embankment. There were no serious injuries in that crash, either. State Department of Transportation crews plan to replace the guardrail Sunday morning.