A woman was killed and two others were seriously injured in a head-on collision that ended in a dramatic car fire Saturday afternoon near Clinton.
The collision snarled traffic on South Whidbey as Highway 525 was closed for six hours.
The Washington State Patrol reported that the only passenger, 77-year-old Sharon Gamble of Everett, was pronounced dead at the scene of the incident.
Danielle Cruz, 39, of Lynnwood was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle and Kenneth Weikle, 78, of Everett was transported to Providence Hospital in Everett for treatment.
According to a memo from the State Patrol, around 1 p.m. Cruz was driving a 2017 Ford Explorer north on Highway 525. Near the highway’s intersection with Campbell Road, her vehicle crossed the centerline and collided head-on with a 2010 Mercedes-Benz E350 driven south by Weikle. Gamble was a passenger in Weikle’s car.
The Ford Explorer burst into flames and was fully engulfed. The fire did not spread to the other car.
Rusty Palmer, the fire chief for South Whidbey Fire/EMS, said it is not uncommon for fuel lines, wires and battery cables to be torn apart in vehicles after a head-on collision. Fuel on the hot engine or a spark from a damaged battery can cause a fire such as the one seen Saturday.
According to Washington State Patrol Trooper Jacob Kennett, the region’s public information officer, it is unknown whether Cruz was able to extricate herself from her burning vehicle or was ejected from it, but she was out of the vehicle when first responders arrived. A spokesperson from Harborview said Sunday night that Cruz was in critical condition.
Gamble died as a result of trauma experienced in the collision.
The cause of the accident is still under investigation, but drugs or alcohol may have been involved. Kennett said Cruz’s vehicle had been reported by others before the accident as driving erratically. In addition, while boarding the ferry headed to Clinton, Cruz reportedly rear-ended another vehicle on the vessel.
The highway was closed until about 7 p.m. to allow the Washington State Patrol to complete their investigation.