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Saturday, February 07, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Weather leads to series of crashes
By Nguyen Huy Vu
State Patrol officials reported no fatalities but several people were injured including one critically and two people were trapped in a car. Five motorists were taken to hospitals, and more than a dozen others were treated at the scene for minor injuries.
Investigators said the weather was a factor in collisions that involved at least 56 vehicles, but the accidents could have been avoided if commuters had slowed down and avoided tailgating.
"The rain, the lightning and the sun glaring off the pavement does not cause collisions," said Patrol spokeswoman Kelly Spangler. "Drivers cause collisions."
It was an eerie repeat of last week's 55-vehicle pileup on southbound I-5 in Tacoma when a burst of sun followed by a rain squall and another sun break set off a series of accidents during the afternoon commute.
Yesterday, the first cluster of collisions involved 12 vehicles and happened at 2:56 p.m. on southbound I-5 at Highway 599 in Tukwila. Fire crews had to pull two people from their vehicle after they were trapped for half an hour.
Southbound lanes were shut for 2-1/2 hours, causing traffic to slow to a crawl as far away as downtown Seattle.
An even worse pileup happened minutes later on northbound I-5, with 16 separate accidents involving at least 42 vehicles and two semi-trailer trucks. All northbound lanes were shut from South 188th Street to Westfield Shoppingtown Southcenter for 3-1/2 hours. KOMO-AM 1000 reported that some motorists abandoned their vehicles on the freeway and walked to the crash scenes to watch rescue efforts.
In the South 188th Street crash, a 17-year-old girl tried to merge into the car-pool lane and ran into a truck with a boat trailer, sending the car spinning.
The jolt sent the teen into the lap of a front-seat passenger. It was unclear if the teen was wearing a seat belt. She was taken to Harborview Medical Center with unknown injuries.
Meanwhile, at nearby Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, lightning from the squall struck a plane on the ground, slightly injuring a worker.
The injured man was working next to the plane, wearing a headset plugged into a jack on the side of the aircraft, Parker said. The man was conscious and alert when he was taken to a local hospital, the spokesman said.
Multiple fender-benders also were reported on southbound I-5 near Everett, and there were a few crashes near Tacoma.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Nguyen Huy Vu: 206-464-3292 or email@example.com
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