WSP mistook a motorcycle accident for an abandoned vehicle; his family found the man’s body nearby three days later.
It was an odd occurrence for Washington State Patrol (WPS) to mistake Travis Williams’ fatal motorcycle crash this month for an abandoned vehicle. When Williams’ family found his body nearby three days later, questions were raised about the Patrol’s work.
On Thursday, the family of a different crash victim from June said the State Patrol had made a similar mistake.
The State Patrol announced Friday that troopers are forming a committee to better handle similar situations that require a more investigative element. Spokesman Trooper Will Finn said the situations appear similar and show the need for adjustments to the Patrol’s methods.
Steven Krieger, 24, was killed June 1 after his car crashed on Highway 14 on the Vancouver-Camas border at around 3 a.m.
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The State Patrol did not find his body after searching the area with thermal imaging and floodlights. His family had filed a missing-person report after he did not show up for his job as a volunteer firefighter and EMT that night.
Troopers later reported his body was found on the other side of the highway.
Krieger’s mother, Rachel Broersma, told KPTV on Thursday that the night after the crash, the family went to the scene and searched for him, but the State Patrol soon arrived and sent them home, saying it was unsafe.
A half an hour later, Broersma said she believes WSP found Krieger’s body and alerted the family.
But Finn said that WSP had already found Krieger’s body at that point but didn’t want to tell the family on the side of the highway.
“We had already found (Krieger). We don’t like to make notifications on the side of the road. We wanted to bring them back to the office … so we could have that delicate conversation with them,” Finn said.
Finn said WSP was contacted by the dispatch agency, CRESA, at about 11 p.m., alerting WSP to Krieger’s missing-person report. Finn said troopers then went back to the scene, but found the family searching for him.
Finn said both victims would have died regardless of the State Patrol’s search efforts.
The biggest issue in the Krieger case, Finn said, was a deficiency in communication between two agencies: the dispatch agency, CRESA, which receives the missing person report, and WSP, which didn’t know about the Krieger’s missing person report until about 20 hours after the crash.
But the issue in Williams’ case was that the responding trooper didn’t realize it was a crash because the motorcycle was found leaning against the side railing. It was an odd occurrence and the trooper believed it had been abandoned, Finn said.
“We’ve got a communication lapse within the chain,” Finn said.
Finn said he can’t recall any obvious cases similar to Williams’ and Krieger’s.
He said WSP established a committee in response to both families’ dissatisfaction. The committee aims to better address the investigative process issues that led to both events. The first meeting will take place Monday to develop scenarios for troopers responding to similar scenes, and figure out how to better communicate with families and partner agencies, like CRESA.
The Williams family agreed to go over the findings of the committee and let them know if anything is missing or if things are improving, according to Finn.
The State Patrol also held a regional meeting Wednesday to talk about the issues, Finn said.
“We are committed to making these changes,” Finn said.