Jade Insko feels lucky to be alive.
What started out as an ordinary morning drive on state Highway 14 near Cape Horn took a dramatic turn when a nearly 40-pound rock smashed through his windshield, crushed his dashboard and steering wheel before bouncing into the passenger seat.
“Had I been a foot further down the road, this would have been a story about a tragedy,” he said.
Insko lives in the hills north of Camas. On Monday morning, he was on his way to Hood River, Ore., to meet with a client. At one point along his commute, the road splits, giving him the option of going left and following Washougal River Road to state Highway 14 or going right and driving through the city of Washougal before getting on the highway.
That morning, Insko planned on going left at the junction, but when the slow driver he was stuck behind turned left, he went right.
Insko found himself just a little past the Cape Horn Lookout, the broad vista that overlooks the Columbia River Gorge, and beyond the cliff face blanketed in a netting designed to keep rocks from falling on the highway.
He’s driven that part of Highway 14 countless times and seen plenty of rocks strewn about the shoulder, thinking to himself they’d do some serious damage if they landed on someone’s car.
He never thought it would happen to him. Until it did.
“Everything happened so explosively fast, and the next thing I know I just stopped in the middle of the road,” he said. Insko couldn’t see through the windshield, but he knew he had to nudge his car out of the lane of traffic. Fortunately, another driver pulled over and called emergency services while Insko was coping with the shock of what happened.
“At that point, I was able to get out of my car. The steering wheel was pushed down right into my legs, but I was able to slide out. It was powdered shards of glass all over me.”
Insko’s car, a Tesla Model 3, was towed from the scene to a repair shop. He was on the company’s waiting list for two years before it finally arrived. He’d had it for barely six months the morning the accident occurred.
“That part of it was sad; but really in the big scheme of things, I recognize no matter how much I wanted that car, it’s just a thing,” he said.
Insko walked away from the crash with only a few minor cuts and some glass in his eyes and throat. He’s well aware it could have been much different. He’s hoping his near-miss will send a message to the Washington State Department of Transportation to do something about the loose rock hazards along the highway.
“If a life can be saved as a result of this close call, it’s worth it,” he said.
Insko said his family members contacted WSDOT about the incident, but a spokeswoman from WSDOT said she wasn’t aware of a report on it. Calls made to the agency to learn about the number of similar incidents on Highway 14 and work to address rock hazards in the corridor went unreturned before press time.
As for the rock, Insko kept it.
“I weighed it on my home scale. It came in at 37.6 pounds,” he said. “I’m going to keep the thing. It’s going to be kind of a monument to how bad things could have been.”