Fatality on I-5 renews cable barrier debate
August 28, 2008 · Updated 10:59 AM
MARYSVILLE A fiery fatality crash on I-5 Feb. 13 backed up northbound traffic for miles and renewed the debate over the effectiveness of the cable barriers in the freeway median.
A 64-year-old Everett man was killed after his Infiniti SUV reportedly entered the southbound freeway at the 88th Street on-ramp and traveled across all three lanes of traffic and into the northbound lanes, striking a tour bus returning to Canada. The SUVs driver was killed on impact and the lone female driver of the tour bus was severely injured and was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
The crash occurred about 3 p.m. and the effects on the afternoon commute were immediate and severe. Northbound lanes were closed for more than two hours while investigators processed the scene and southbound lanes slowed as the left lane was intermittently closed to allow examiners from the Washington State Patrol and the Washington State Department of Transportation to measure and photograph area.
The driver of the SUV was identified as Clifford Warren of Everett and the driver of the tour bus was Sigrid Wosnack, of Surrey, B.C. The 48-year-old was the only person on board the bus, returning from a trip to Sea-Tac International Airport.
The cable barriers had recently been moved and doubled, with two parallel groups of three cables on either side of the median. The barriers became an issue after a series of fatal accidents involving crossover traffic since 2000. In the Feb. 13 collision the SUV clipped the southbound barriers, bending over a metal pole supporting the cables, which remained in place. The northbound cables were snapped from their supporting poles, with one strand stretched across the lanes of traffic all the way to where the SUV collided with the bus and caught on fire.
The collision and the fiery wreck raised calls from local state legislators and Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire to find a solution to the deadly stretch of road. State Reps. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, and Mike Sells, D-Everett called for an immediate solution, suggesting even a berm of dirt in the center median could help stop cars from crossing over.
Washington State Patrol spokesman Keith Leary said it was too early for any conclusions as to the cause of the crash, although he did confirm that there were no skid marks found at the scene.
The marks that we had were from the left shoulder of the road and to the median, Leary said. As far as any black marks, there werent any.
He could not say whether the driver of the SUV had a medical or health problem that caused him to lose control of the vehicle, but was quick to point out that there was no evidence of a deliberate action on the part of the driver. The Snohomish County Medical Examiner said that Warren died of blunt force injuries to his head and body and ruled that his death was an accident.
There is still really an evidence gathering mode right now. Its going to be quite some time, Leary said, acknowledging that the highest echelons of the patrol are aware of the Governors interest in the event. They understand that these things take time.