A Skyview High School student died from her injuries Tuesday after a Monday evening crash near Ridgefield.
Kaitlin Miller, 17, was the passenger in a red 1999 Mercury Cougar that failed to stop at the intersection of Northeast 199th Street and 29th Avenue. The Mercury was southbound on 29th around 7:10 p.m. Monday when it went through the stop sign and was struck in the passenger’s side by an eastbound 2006 Volvo XC90, an SUV.
The news shook the high school community, which held a vigil Tuesday night with prayers, flowers, even a video dedication.
Firefighters with Clark County Fire & Rescue arrived to the crash site Monday evening to find both vehicles heavily damaged and Miller pinned in the car. A Life Flight helicopter was put on standby and later dismissed when the first ambulance arrived. Using the Jaws of Life, firefighters cut off the roof of the car and freed Miller.
Monday night, Battalion Chief Tim Dawdy said Miller was in critical condition. The driver of the Mercury, Grace Chandler, 17, who will be entering her senior year at Skyview, was reportedly in serious condition.
The driver of the Volvo, Geralyn Jaskey, 53, and her two passengers, Julia Ballo, 14, and Hanna Ballo, 16, all from Brush Prairie, were evaluated for injuries.
The Clark County Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate and says that alcohol and speed did not cause the crash.
Miller just wrapped up her junior year at Skyview and has been in the Vancouver school district since the second grade, said Kris Sork, Vancouver Public Schools spokeswoman. At Skyview, she served as the activities coordinator for the National Honors Society and played tennis and volleyball for the Skyview Storm.
Several hundred students and Miller’s family and coaches held a candlelight vigil at the high school’s flagpole Tuesday night. There were flowers and a poster board set up for attendants to sign. Her peers celebrated their time in school with her and said prayers.
Skyview Principal Kym Tyelyn-Carlson asked that students be safe this summer take caution while driving.
Spencer Hanley, who has lived in the home that’s nearest to the intersection for about three years, saw people placing flowers and building a memorial at the crash site Tuesday morning. In his first two months of living in the area, he was surprised by the amount of accidents at the intersection, which he says is surrounded by wetlands. Neighbors told him it has a history of bad wrecks.
In 2006, four people were sent to the hospital after a crash at the intersection, according to Columbian archives. The driver of a 1992 Toyota Celica allegedly failed to stop on Northeast 29th Avenue and hit a 2006 GMC pickup. Four years earlier, a woman driving a 1988 Plymouth Voyager crashed near the intersection when she reached for her coffee cup and hit a power pole.
Over the years, Hanley said he’s witnessed crashes and heard plenty of near misses. “It’s not uncommon to hear squeals and horns going off.”
Hanley filed a complaint Tuesday with Clark County commissioners.
“It is time the county takes action and makes this intersection a four-way stop to end this madness,” he said.
The amount of traffic on Northeast 29th Avenue is not high enough to warrant a four-way stop, as outlined by the requirements in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, said Jeff Mize, spokesman for Clark County Public Works.
The county, however, recently took steps to improve safety at the intersection. New stop signs were installed at the intersection that have surface treatments, making them brighter and more visible, Mize said. Additionally, “cross traffic does not stop” warning signs were replaced at the intersection with similar surface treatments, and “STOP” was painted in white on the roadway before each sign. The county installed “stop sign ahead” signs on each side of Northeast 29th Avenue before the intersection. All the additions, part of an annual traffic safety improvement program, are intended to alert motorists as they approach the intersection.
The county plans to add reflective raised pavement markers on all four legs of the intersection to discourage drivers from drifting into the path of oncoming traffic and to provide another visual cue.
County traffic engineers visited the intersection Tuesday to ensure all of the warning devices were still in place.
“It’s unfortunately tragic what happened,” Mize said.