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Originally published May 24, 2010 at 8:01 AM | Page modified May 24, 2010 at 9:29 PM

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Tumbling pickax hits car on I-405 in Kirkland

A Bellevue couple escaped serious injury Sunday when a pickax from the bed of a truck crashed through their windshield.

Seattle Times staff reporter

It happened so fast, Peter and Maxine Henning didn't see the pickax until it was too late.

On Sunday the Bellevue couple were driving home on Interstate 405 after a fun weekend with friends on Whidbey Island. Their Mercedes SUV was just south of Totem Lake and traveling at about 60 mph in the southbound high-occupancy-vehicle lane.

Suddenly a pickax burst through their front windshield and landed right between the front seats. It struck so hard it knocked the rearview mirror to the back of the vehicle.

"The sound was like an explosion," said Maxine Henning, 65, who like her husband got sprayed with bits of glass and grit. "When that tempered glass breaks, it just bursts."

The couple found powdered glass in their hair, pockets, even their mouths.

"The (chewing) gum got very gritty," she said.

The State Patrol is still searching for the truck — described by a witness as a late 1980s or early 1990s green or teal pickup with wood panels on each side of the bed — that was the source of the pickax. The truck had been traveling northbound.

Sgt. Freddy Williams called the accident "horrific" and said it could easily have been prevented if the truck's driver had taken a few minutes to secure the load properly.

Anyone with information about the suspect vehicle is urged to call the State Patrol at 425-401-7788.

In Washington, those convicted of failing to secure a load that results in injury face up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine upon conviction.

The law, which took effect in 2005, is named for Maria Federici, a young woman who was blinded and permanently disfigured when a piece of particleboard from a home-entertainment unit flew off a trailer, crashed through her windshield and shattered her face as she drove south on Interstate 405 in February 2004.

After her own brush with mortal injury, Maxine Henning said she hopes all drivers remember to secure their loads, regardless of how small the objects are.

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She's also driving more defensively.

On Monday, she found herself driving behind a landscaping truck, she said. Uneasy, she pulled back — way back — so she would have time to react if something flew off the truck bed.

"I'll probably be aware of what's in front of me for a while," she said.

Sanjay Bhatt: 206-464-3103.

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