Seven people were taken to the hospital and traffic backups stretched for miles Saturday in the Mount Vernon area after a truck charged across the I-5 median into oncoming traffic. That traffic had been stalled for an investigation into a fatal drive-by shooting.
A double-dump truck heading south on Interstate 5 near Mount Vernon plowed across the median Saturday morning and into northbound traffic that was already nearly stalled for an investigation of a fatal early morning shooting on the freeway.
Six people were taken to Skagit Valley Hospital, with two later airlifted in critical condition to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. One other was taken to PeaceHealth United General Medical Center, said Washington State Patrol Trooper Mark Francis.
At least 23 vehicles were involved, including the truck, which was full of a clay and gravel mixture, Francis said.
The driver, who was among the six taken to Skagit Valley Hospital, had chest injuries and a broken arm. Francis said it is possible a medical condition was a factor in the 8:30 a.m. crash.
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Both directions of I-5 were closed, and caused miles of backups throughout the afternoon. At one point, Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) reported drivers going the wrong way up and down I-5 ramps and warned drivers not to, because it puts everyone in danger.
By 2 p.m., WSDOT had opened one lane of southbound I-5. By 6:30 p.m., all lanes were open.
At the time of the crash, northbound traffic was being diverted to Anderson Road at exit 225 because of the earlier shooting, which the Washington State Patrol said was a drive-by.
Troopers were called to the area near the College Way exit 227 in Mount Vernon where they found two men in their 20s, the driver and front-seat passenger, dead inside a vehicle just after 3 a.m.
Hours later, near milepost 224, the driver of the Cowden Gravel & Ready Mix truck, heading south from Bellingham, crashed through the cable barrier on southbound I-5, across the grass median, through the cable barrier on northbound I-5, and into the traffic waiting to exit a mile up the road at Anderson Road, Francis said.
“When you are packed like that, you can’t go right, you can’t go left, you can’t go in reverse, you essentially sit there and watch it happen,” Francis said in a televised interview with KING5.
One woman said she was driving with her mother from Auburn to Everson to pick up berries when she saw the dump truck crossing the median, coming toward them. Their Chevrolet Suburban was far enough back that she said she knew the truck wouldn’t hit them, but there was no place to drive to get out of the way.
“To see a big truck crashing through cars, it looked kind of like a horror movie,” said Kathy, 34, who did not want her full name used.
Slamming on the brakes, Kathy then saw a giant metal cable flying toward her car. She and her mother put their heads down toward their knees just as the car was hit multiple times by the median’s cable barrier, which was swinging as the dump truck surged ahead and rolled over.
The cable broke one of the Suburban’s windows and a side mirror, dented the sides and came to rest wedged against the luggage rack on her roof.
“It was really loud,” she said. “We thought it was going to break the windshield.”
Jumping out, Kathy and her mother went to help get people out of cars that had much more damage.
“A lot of air bags exploded and kids were crying in cars,” she said.