Friends, community mourn Ridgefield teen

Medical examiner: Ridgefield High School senior died of mechanical asphyxia

By Emily Gillespie, Columbian Breaking News Reporter and Patty Hastings, Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith



A senior at Ridgefield High School died in a single-vehicle crash Wednesday night. Another student at the school who was driving the pickup truck was uninjured.

A Ridgefield High School senior died Wednesday night in a crash near the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge, where friends say he’d had his senior pictures taken just 90 minutes earlier.

Tanner Trosko, 17, was the passenger in a 1960 Ford pickup that was traveling west on Northwest 291st Street and overturned as it took a left turn onto Northwest Main Avenue, said Battalion Chief Tim Dawdy, spokesman for Clark County Fire & Rescue. The pickup came to rest on the east side of the street, just north of the entrance to the wildlife refuge’s headquarters. The crash was reported at 7:38 p.m. Wednesday.

According to the Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office, Trosko died of mechanical asphyxia, meaning something, such as compression or a piece of the truck, prevented him from breathing after the crash. The driver, Lucas Wells, is also a senior at the school and a friend of Trosko’s. He was transported to an area hospital Wednesday night, but was reportedly uninjured.

Kelly Maul, who lives at the corner, said the piece of roadway sees one or two rollovers a year.

She wasn’t home at the time of the crash, but did show up about a half-hour afterward to see the accident scene.

“I will never forget the sound of that young man’s mother crying for as long as I live,” she said. “I am so sad for her and her family, as well as the young driver, who is also a fine man forever changed.”

She said she’d wish people would go slower around the curve.

“It’s just terrible,” she said. “I don’t want to lose any more of our kids.”

The Vancouver Police Department’s traffic unit was asked by the sheriff’s office to lead the accident’s investigation. Wells is the son of the owner of TLC Towing, which holds a contract with the sheriff’s office.

On Thursday, cars slowed as they approached the corner where the crash occurred to look at a memorial cross and flowers placed near the ditch. The high school’s cross country team set up a second memorial at the Ridgefield Pioneer Marketplace, 203 Pioneer St., where Trosko worked. The students wanted to do something productive and positive in the wake of his death. On a large poster and in a blue notebook, students jotted down their favorite memories of Trosko.

Amber Hill, 18, headed the effort for her close friend and classmate. Both were Running Start students at Clark College and took some classes together.

“He was that person that could get along with anyone,” she said before jogging back to the high school with the rest of the cross country team. The pair hung out together, worked out together and even went prom dress shopping together, said her mother, Wendy Hill.

As Wendy looked through the comments written on the poster, she described Trosko as someone who was always there for his friends and who had an incredible work ethic.

“He had a smile every day,” added Vicki Marshall, a co-worker at the marketplace. She said while Trosko was in middle school, he constantly bugged the employees about getting a job at the local convenience store, and was hired when he was 15.

He held a second job and played drums in the percussion group at the high school in addition to his full-time school work. Although school started for Ridgefield students Aug. 27, Trosko hadn’t started fall semester at Clark College, where classes begin Sept. 23.

The crash wasn’t the small city’s first fatality involving high school students. In 2009, four recent graduates died in a collision on their way to the coast to spend some time together before they split up for college or other adventures.