A man was arrested after he lost control of his pickup and injured six middle-school boys in a crash in Maple Valley. The driver apparently had a medical emergency that caused the crash.
After finishing a graveyard shift, mechanic Eric Jhanson had just pulled into the driveway of his Maple Valley home shortly after 8 a.m. Thursday when he heard tires squealing.
“It sounded like some punk doing a burnout, and I thought, ‘That’s just not right,’ ” Jhanson recalled later.
But as the father headed up his block in the Cherokee Bay neighborhood, he quickly realized this wasn’t a prank.
On a nearby street corner, smoke billowed into the air, partly concealing a chaotic scene of children screaming and parents running.
As Jhanson made his way through the haze, he quickly found the cause of the mayhem: A green Dodge pickup crashed into the front yard of a home where neighborhood children gather each morning to catch their school bus. And in the locked truck, a young man lay slumped over the steering wheel.
“The tires were still spinning, and he was unconscious,” Jhanson said.
By then, the 19-year-old driver had plowed into a half dozen middle-school-aged boys, seriously injuring three of them. The driver, whose license was suspended, apparently had suffered a seizure just before the accident, a sheriff’s spokeswoman later said.
The driver, a Maple Valley teen who Jhanson and another neighbor eventually pulled to safety, was later booked into jail for investigation of vehicular assault.
When the smoke cleared, authorities said the teen lost control of the pickup, which struck a mailbox that catapulted into two of the boys. The truck then barreled into three more boys and grazed another before hitting a tree.
Thirteen-year-old Max Pringle, his legs scraped after the truck grazed and knocked him into a garden wall, picked himself up and ran for help.
“He came running up in a panic and said this truck had just run into a bunch of kids at the bus stop,” his father, Garth Pringle, later recounted. “His legs were all scraped up, but he still had the presence of mind to … come get me.”
When they hurried back, two boys were laid out near the accident scene, clearly in anguish, Garth Pringle said. Another boy had an obvious broken leg.
“Parents were just trying to keep them still so they wouldn’t move,” he said.
In all, six boys suffered a variety of injuries in the crash near Southeast 271st Street and 218th Avenue Southeast. Authorities initially described several injuries as life-threatening, but Maple Valley Fire Chief Brad Doerflinger later said all boys are expected to survive.
While others tended to the injured children, Jhanson and another neighbor, Rob Zippro, broke the passenger-side window of the truck with its tires still spinning.
“The guy’s foot was just cranked on the gas,” Zippro said.
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Smoke from the burning tires filled the truck’s cabin as Jhanson shut off the ignition. He and Zippro pulled the man from the truck and onto the ground.
“We tried talking to him … A couple minutes later, he was slurring, but you couldn’t understand what he was saying,” Zippro said.
Fire medics came to assess the man, saw he was unconscious but not injured, and went to help the children hurt in the crash, Zippro said.
“When I turned back around, he was throwing up,” he added. “I moved him to his side so he could continue to throw up. That’s when it seemed like he was gaining awareness of what was going on.”
Court records show the driver had been issued a ticket for driving 82 mph in a 60 mph zone in 2014. The teenager later attended a traffic class to mitigate the ticket.
King County sheriff’s spokeswoman Cindi West said the driver’s license had been suspended, and investigators learned “he has a seizure history.”
“He shouldn’t have been behind the wheel,” West said.
The driver, who was taken to a nearby hospital for evaluation after the accident, was booked into the King County Regional Justice Center in Kent on Thursday afternoon. He was being held without bail, but he had not been charged.
Meantime, at least two boys remained hospitalized Thursday afternoon.
One boy, 11, was taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle with chest injuries. He was awake, alert and in serious condition in intensive care, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Two other boys went to Valley Medical Center in Renton. One boy was released, while another boy, 11, was in satisfactory condition with a broken leg.
The three other victims, including Max Pringle, were treated for bruises and scrapes at the scene, Doerflinger said.
All of the boys attend Cedar River Middle School, which brought in counselors for students as needed Thursday, a district spokesman said.