Mountain View student, 15, dies in crash

Three in vehicle were all 15; speed blamed




A 15-year-old Mountain View High School student was killed and two other 15-year-olds were injured Tuesday afternoon when a pickup rolled over.

The fatally injured boy’s name was not released. He was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident, which occurred about 4:15 p.m. on Southeast French Road along the north side of state Highway 14 west of Ellsworth Road in Vancouver.

The other two boys were taken to a local hospital with injuries not believed life-threatening, said Sgt. Patrick Johns with the Vancouver Police Department. He supervises the Traffic Unit, which conducts detailed investigations of serious-injury and fatal crashes.

The boys had been heading east toward Ellsworth in a large, four-door Ford pickup. The driver was going too fast and lost control on a slight curve, near where only concrete barriers and a chain-link fence separate French Road from the highway, Johns said.

The truck rolled over and ended up on its top in the middle of the road, which is lined by homes, some upscale on large properties. Police barricaded and taped off portions of the road as the investigation began.

Tamela Mackenzie and her daughter, Meghan Mackenzie, 12, stood along Ellsworth crying and speaking with news crews about the boy who died, who was a friend of the family.

“He was like a buddy to me,” Meghan said, sobbing. “I loved him so much. He was a really fun guy.”

“It could happen to my kids, it could,” Tamela Mackenzie said. “These kids just mess with life like it’s nothing. They think life centers around them.”

“It’ll be a hard day at school tomorrow,” Tamela Mackenzie added.

“It’ll be terrible,” Meghan sobbed.

Sgt. Johns said preliminary indications were that the boy who died wasn’t wearing his seat belt, but the other two were. He said it initially appeared the fatally injured boy had been a passenger in the truck.

It was not immediately clear whether the driver was properly permitted to drive, or was driving in accordance with permit limitations. Police said they would not release any of the victims’ names because they are juveniles.

As officials worked at the accident scene, Danny Grozav was working on landscaping in front of a large home he’s building on the road just west of Ellsworth.

He said young drivers speed on the road day and night.

“They’re speeding 55, 60 mph,” he said. “I told them to slow down. They showed me the finger and said, ‘Shut up!'”

Grozav, who lives at 10642 S.E. French Road, said he’s asked city officials to place speed bumps on the road and lower the speed limit, which currently is posted as 35 mph.

“This is unbelievable,” he said “They said they have no money and we can’t do anything.”

Carol Fenstermacher, spokeswoman for Evergreen Public Schools, said police told her the boy who died was a student at Mountain View High School.

A trauma counseling team has been notified to be at Mountain View first thing this morning, Fenstermacher said.

Fears — and other tough feelings — that aren’t spoken and processed won’t just disappear, said Wendy Silverthorne, a counselor at Illahee Elementary School.

Silverthorne leads the local School Mobilization Assistance Response Team (SMART) that trains, and calls upon, local school counselors to step in when crisis has struck and children may be hurting. All Clark County school districts have SMART team members, she said, with about 100 trained counselors total.

Sadly, the crash on French Road happened on the same day that brain-injured crash survivor Tyler Presnell, 25, of Vancouver appeared before lawmakers in Washington, D.C., with other safe-driving activists and U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., during a press conference at noon Eastern time.

“I’m about to step foot in Congress and speak to lawmakers,” he told The Columbian for a story published Tuesday. “It blows my mind.”

Presnell was brought to the nation’s capital by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, a coalition of consumer safety groups and insurance companies. The group plans to urge Congress to pass the STAND UP Act, which would create federal legislation implementing a three-step licensing process, with limitations on new drivers lasting until at least age 18.

“I’m going to tell my story, what happened, and how if the STAND UP Act was in place I wouldn’t have been allowed in the car,” Presnell said by telephone Monday.

Eleven years ago, Presnell was in the back seat of a friend’s car when the freshly licensed driver lost control. Presnell’s door hit a telephone pole at 70 mph.

Tuesday’s accident was the second serious accident involving a teenager in the past two weeks. On Sept. 12, four teenagers were injured, one critically, in a 3:40 a.m. accident in the 17400 block of Southeast 25th Street.

Police described that accident as two couples on a double-date, and are investigating speed and alcohol use as the causes. Three of the teens were released from the hospital while the most seriously injured, a 17-year-old boy whose name was not released, had improved to stable condition this week.

Howard Buck and Craig Brown contributed to this report.