Rescuers from two counties search back roads for crash

Cellphone call reported injury, not location

By John Branton, Columbian Staff Reporter

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When a pickup carrying three people lurched out of control on a gravel road and hit a tree in remote, forested Bear Prairie late Thursday, rescuers from eastern Clark County and western Skamania County began searching for them.

Someone from the truck called 911 about 10:30 p.m., but didn’t know where they were, said Chief Scott Koehler with East County Fire & Rescue. There were reports that one of three might be badly injured.

“We had units driving all over trying to find them,” Koehler said. “It was a major effort. Some of the descriptions they gave could match any of many roads up there.”

Dispatchers with 911 tried using a “ping,” trying to find them by triangulating with cellphone towers, but it didn’t work in the remote area of state forestland.

“They were about three miles north of where the ping said,” said Sgt. Tony Barnes with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.

Rescuers from Skamania County reached the victims first, Koehler said, adding, “They were on a road I didn’t even know exists.”

They were found a few miles north of the Washougal River in the Bear Prairie area.

Koehler said his firefighters were told to return to their station.

Because of the vagueness of the caller’s description, East County had been searching around Turner and Gibson roads, south of the Washougal River.

Koehler said one ambulance rushed to a hospital in Vancouver with lights and sirens, and the second ambulance left at normal speed.

The three taken to a hospital were young Washougal residents, Barnes said.

Their names were not immediately available.

Barnes said he was told deputies ordered a blood draw from the driver at the hospital. Deputies sent their reports to the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office, asking officials there to consider filing a DUI, a decision that will depend on the analysis of the driver’s blood sample.

John Branton: 360-735-4513 or john.branton@columbian.com.