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Crash That Killed 5 Haunts Teen Driver Not His Fault, But He’ll ‘Think About It Every Day’

The bodies lying in the field confused Jeremy Bonham. He saw them as soon as he had climbed from a wrecked pickup north of Spokane.

The 17-year-old from Nine Mile Falls didn’t know who the people were or why they were there. He didn’t connect their still figures to the crushed Honda Civic sitting upside-down in front of him.

“I just saw the empty car and I wondered where everybody was,” Bonham said Tuesday.

He learned later all five passengers in the car had died. The accident occurred Saturday evening at Glen GroveStaley and Swenson roads southwest of Deer Park.

On his way to his grandmother’s house in Springdale, Wash., for dinner, Bonham hit the Honda Civic when its teenage driver ran a stop sign, Washington State Patrol troopers said. They said Bonham wasn’t speeding and had his seat belt on. No alcohol was involved in the crash.

Bonham walked around the accident scene and resisted paramedics who tried to pull glass from his head. Blood trickled down his face and hands. Someone kept telling him to sit down. A medical helicopter whirled overhead.

Then Bonham heard a bystander say the people in the field appeared to be dead.

“He was upset, and they were trying to calm him down,” said his father, Dave Bonham. “He saw body bags, and a paramedic told him they were just to keep those people warm.”

“I remember being worried that my dad was going to be mad at me for wrecking his truck,” he said.

Bonham’s wrist and both knees were fractured and his face, arms and back were cut. The seat belt he was wearing left a dark bruise across his left shoulder.

The Lakeside High School senior sat uncomfortably at his kitchen table in sweat pants and a T-shirt Tuesday and tried to recall more about the fatal accident. Nothing about it seems real yet, he said.

He wasn’t told about the deaths until the day after the wreck. His parents had intercepted telephone calls from friends and had hidden the newspaper so Bonham could rest without guilt.

Bonham, who likes to fish, hunt and draw, said he wants to get better and return to his job at a North Division restaurant.

He also wants to continue his weekly visits to see his grandmother but is unsure which route he’ll take. Bonham said he heard that friends and relatives of the victims are going to put up five white crosses at the intersection where the accident occurred.

The thought of driving past them bothers Bonham.

“I know they’re doing it so people remember them,” he said quietly. “But I’m already going to think about it every day, especially if I drive by there. And now if they put up crosses … I just know it’s going to be hard.”

The accident left both vehicles in a ditch about 30 feet from the intersection. The driver and all four passengers in the Honda spilled out of the car. None was wearing a seat belt.

Killed were John Kelly, 17; Joshua Speck, 17; Richard “Joe” Schamp, 16; Dustin Robison, 15; and Gregory Valleau, 25. All were from Deer Park.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

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