A series of crashes involving four vehicles Monday night on the northbound Interstate 5 bridge near Woodland resulted in the death of one man and serious injuries to two women.
Ronnie Walker, 61, of Spokane was struck by a vehicle and died instantly.
Investigators with the Washington State Patrol closed all three northbound lanes for more than five hours as they pieced together the circumstances of the pileup.
The incident started at 9:25 p.m. as a single-vehicle wreck when Sarah Aguilar, 34, of Longview lost control of her Durango SUV, crashed into the inside barrier on the bridge and came to a stop in the left lane, according to Trooper Steve Schatzel, a spokesman.
Laura Dunham, 34, of Woodland was in a light brown Ford Focus along with her son, Mitch. The pair stopped behind the Durango to help Aguilar.
Several other vehicles, including one containing Walker and his brother, stopped in front of the crashed Durango. On foot, Walker came back to help, too.
Then, according to Schatzel, Christopher Cady, 24, of Portland failed to stop the Chevrolet van he was driving, sideswiping Dunham’s Focus and knocking her over a guardrail into the river.
The van continued on, hitting Aguilar and her Durango, which spun and knocked Walker over. Aguilar was sent flying 30 feet, Schatzel said. She sustained serious head injuries.
A fourth vehicle, a Dodge pickup driven by Fred A. Creek, 45, of Auburn crashed into the pileup and hit Walker, who died on the scene, according to WSP.
Dunham, who police said sustained a broken arm and two broken legs, somehow swam to the riverbank. She also suffered hypothermia and internal injuries.
Dan Yager of Clark County Fire & Rescue said a boat set out from Ridgefield Junction and used thermal imaging to locate Dunham. Its crew rushed her to a boat ramp where she was picked up by Life Flight helicopter and transported to Southwest Washington Medical Center.
Aguilar was also transported to the hospital. On Tuesday night, she was in critical condition, hospital officials said.
Paul Still of Ocean Shores is Dunham’s father. He said she set up flares in an attempt to alert drivers to Aguilar’s crash.
She’s was in serious condition Tuesday morning, according to hospital officials. On Tuesday evening, her condition was not available.
“She’s doing OK,” Still said. “She was very fortunate.”
‘A big heart’
Walker had flown from Spokane to Portland on Monday evening and was on his way to Longview with his brother to visit their dying father in a Longview hospital, according to an acquaintance who had taken him to the Spokane Airport earlier in the day.
He worked part-time in the packaging center of The Spokesman-Review.
Laurie Lunzer, a production manager at the paper, described Walker as a loyal employee “with a big heart” and said she was not surprised to hear he stopped to help someone.
The northbound lanes of the interstate reopened at 3 a.m.
An investigation continues and no arrests have been made, said Sgt. Thomas Butsch.
He warned motorists: “There’s no shoulders on the bridge. There’s just no space there. A vehicle is really more dangerous than a firearm.”