Driver thanks man who hit him on purpose
A Boeing manager and engineer by training, Duane Innes of Kent is credited with saving the life of a driver who'd lost consciousness on Highway 167. Innes pulled his minivan in front of the runaway truck before it slammed into other vehicles.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Driving to a Mariners game, Duane Innes saw a pickup ahead of him drift across lanes of traffic, sideswipe a concrete barrier and continue forward on the inside shoulder at about 40 mph.
A manager of Boeing's F22 fighter-jet program, Innes dodged the truck, then looked back to see that the driver was slumped over the wheel. He knew a busy intersection was just ahead, and he had to act fast. Without consulting the passengers in his minivan — "there was no time to take a vote" — Innes kicked into engineer mode.
"Basic physics: If I could get in front of him and let him hit me, the delta difference in speed would just be a few miles an hour, and we could slow down together," Innes explained.
So he pulled in front of the pickup, allowed it to rear-end his minivan and brought both vehicles safely to a stop in the pull-off lane.
Some might say the driver of the truck, 80-year-old Bill Pace, of Bellevue, and anyone Pace's truck might have slammed into had luck on their side that day. A retiree who volunteers for Special Olympics and organizes food drives, Pace didn't know it at the time, but he'd had a minor heart attack two days earlier and his circulation was so poor he passed out at the wheel with his foot resting on the accelerator.
But those who know Pace best don't see his rescue as luck so much as an example of "what goes around comes around." And Innes, who met Pace for the first time since the incident over dinner with their wives Monday night at a Bellevue restaurant, believes that, too.
"For all the good that he's done, he's probably deserving of a few extra lives," said Innes, who talked for hours with Pace about their shared interest in aviation and their family ties to Yakima Valley.
State Farm, Pace's insurance company, covered the roughly $3,500 in damage to Innes' car, and a claim representative sent Innes a letter of appreciation this summer.
"We wish to thank you for the actions you took to save Bill's life," State Farm's Clayton Ande wrote. "State Farm and the Pace family consider you to be a hero. I wish there were more people like you in the world."
Problem and solution
Innes, a 48-year-old Boston native who has lived in Kent for 25 years, was driving his grown children and some family friends to the Mariners-Red Sox game on July 23.
At about 5:15 p.m., he had just passed Valley Medical Center and was planning to merge from Highway 167 onto Interstate 405. Traffic was building so he decided to get into the carpool lane on his left.
As he changed lanes, he noticed the white pickup ahead of him move from the far-right lane to the center lane without signaling.
No big deal, Innes thought. Just a careless driver.
But then the pickup continued to move left and almost struck Innes' minivan. Innes swerved into the emergency pull-off lane, sped past the pickup and got back into the carpool lane.
In his rearview mirror, he saw Pace slumped over the wheel of the pickup, which sideswiped the concrete barrier.
"We realized he wasn't slowing down, and if he hit someone at full speed, it would've been a very bad scene," Innes said. The intersection with Southwest Grady Way was a few hundred yards away. "He could've very easily unknowingly taken out a whole row of traffic."
Instinctively, Innes applied his 25 years of experience at Boeing, where he is a manager for the F22 fighter-jet program.
"The best-case scenario is I need to match his speed, get in front of him and let him hit me," Innes remembers thinking.
Innes didn't consult his passengers but did announce his plan before he executed it.
No one responded.
"I don't know if they were all in shock or thinking, 'What crazy thing is my dad doing?' " he said.
Crazy or not, the plan worked.
Pace's pickup hit the minivan, and Innes held onto the brakes to halt both vehicles. When they stopped, he knocked on the pickup's window to alert Pace, who was by then semiconscious, and got him to unlock the door.
Pace, who would spend the next six days in a hospital for his heart problems, still had his foot on the accelerator when Innes got to him.
"Most people wouldn't have done nothing," Pace said. "They'd be cussing at me, giving me the finger. But not him."
"He saved my life, really — and God knows who else."
Talking for hours
On Monday night, Innes, Pace and their wives talked about what happened that afternoon. They talked about the Air Force — Pace served four years and Innes has worked on several military projects at Boeing. They talked about Yakima Valley — Pace and Carmen Innes both attended Wapato High School.
And they talked about Pace. Although he retired from working every day at his Bellevue store, Bill Pace Fruit and Produce, he is busier than ever.
He manages harvesting and marketing for the Mercer Slough Blueberry Farm, which is run by the city of Bellevue, and he fills the rest of his schedule volunteering for Special Olympics events, teaching for the Kiwanis Educated Youth Club and organizing donation drives from local grocery stores.
"What a local icon — how much volunteering he does. Boy, he's just amazing," Innes said. "If there's someone out there that can hear a story like this and say, 'Hey, it pays to do something good,' then it's all worth it."
Sean Collins Walsh: 206-464-3195 or email@example.com
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