Injured man airlifted after wreck near Monkey Hill Road

ABOVE, Emergency responders pull Leslie Rieckers from the wreckage of his truck on Highway 20 just south of Monkey Hill Road Tuesday morning. - Justin Burnett/Whidbey News-Times
ABOVE, Emergency responders pull Leslie Rieckers from the wreckage of his truck on Highway 20 just south of Monkey Hill Road Tuesday morning.
— image credit: Justin Burnett/Whidbey News-Times

A 70-year-old Sedro-Woolley man was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle Tuesday morning after his vehicle went off the roadway near Monkey Hill Road.

According to Washington State Trooper Norman Larsen, Leslie Rieckers was driving northbound on Highway 20 in an older model Ford Ranger when, for an unknown reason, he lost control of his vehicle and went off the roadway.

“We don’t know yet why he lost control,” Larsen said.

The truck rolled over at least once and came to rest on its roof. With much of the cab caved in, Rieckers was wedged down below the steering wheel and had to be cut from the vehicle with the Jaws of Life by North Whidbey Fire and Rescue firefighters.

It was still unclear Tuesday afternoon just how long he was trapped. Emergency responders received the call at 11:15 a.m. and Rieckers was freed from the vehicle at about 11:22 a.m. but witnesses report the accident may have occurred around 10:30 a.m.

“I didn’t see the actual flip, but I saw the cloud of dirt,” said Oak Harbor resident Paula Clark, who was traveling in a vehicle behind Rieckers.

She and several other witnesses that had pulled over attempted to call 911 but it took a long time before someone got a signal and was able to get through, she said.

Tom O’Brien, a sailor at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, also pulled over to help. When he approached the vehicle, he noticed a small dog shivering inside. The dog, named “Fluffy” according to the tags on its collar, would remain in his arms throughout the rescue.

Larsen said the cause of the accident is still unclear. Although beer cans were scattered around Rieckers’ vehicle, he said that isn’t proof that he was intoxicated.

“That doesn’t automatically mean he was drinking,” Larsen said.

He may have had a medical problem or just lost control. The cause of the accident will continue to be investigated, he said.

Bonnie Maley, manager of Whidbey General Hospital’s emergency room, confirmed that Rieckers was airlifted to Harborview’s trauma center via helicopter with chest injuries at about 1 p.m. Tuesday afternoon. Maley could not say if his injuries were life-threatening.

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