Bellingham woman in fatal I-5 crash still critical

Pickup driver was testing overhead clearance of freeway overpasses

By Patty Hastings, Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith



A Bellingham woman injured in Monday’s fatal crash on Interstate 5 near Ridgefield remains in critical condition at a local hospital.

Wanda K. Dodd, 48, was driving a Honda CR-V that struck the back of a Ford F-250 pickup around 1 p.m. Monday in the right northbound lane of the freeway. The pickup had slowed to pull onto the right shoulder near the Carty Road overpass.

Dodd then lost control of her vehicle and struck a Harley-Davison motorcycle driven in the center lane by Dennis G. Sarton, 60, of Vancouver, according to the Washington State Patrol.

The motorcycle went off the roadway and Sarton was flung from the bike, authorities said. He was pronounced dead at the scene, according to WSP.

A drug recognition expert went to the crash site to interview the driver of the pickup, Eldon L. Ford, 33, of Ontario, Ore., Trooper Will Finn said. The expert determined that Ford was unimpaired.

Ford told troopers he was driving his pickup on the freeway to test the overhead clearance for freeway underpasses along a potential route for a vehicle with an oversized load.

On Monday, the pickup had extra “cautionary lights” on and a tall pole extended from the top of the pickup, Finn said. When the pole hit the Carty Road overpass just south of Ridgefield, Ford started to pull over and was struck by the Honda.

Ford wasn’t injured in the collision, but he was taken to a hospital Monday as a precaution, Finn said. He’s since been discharged.

The investigation into the crash blocked two northbound lanes of traffic on I-5 for several hours. Traffic was backed up to the I-5 and Interstate 205 merger, just north of Salmon Creek. Lanes reopened shortly before 3:30 p.m.

The WSP continues investigating the collision and has not decided whether to issue any charges related to the crash.