April 10, 2010 in Washington Voices

Driver ‘very, very lucky’ in collision with big rig

By The Spokesman-Review
Courtesy of the Spokane Valley Fire Department photo

A car was pinned under a semitrailer on eastbound Interstate 90 between the Argonne and Pines exits on Tuesday. The driver received minor injuries. Courtesy of the Spokane Valley Fire Department
(Full-size photo)

A Deer Park woman is lucky to be alive after her car got wedged underneath a semitrailer on Interstate 90 on Tuesday.

According to the Washington State Patrol, Kathleen Schroeder, 49, was driving east near the Argonne exit in the center lane when a semi in the right lane merged into her lane. Schroeder swerved left to avoid the semi, but then swerved back to the right to miss the concrete divider, said assistant fire marshal Bill Clifford of the Spokane Valley Fire Department. She lost control and ended up underneath the truck, an empty potato hauler. Schroeder only received minor injuries. “I don’t see how that didn’t kill somebody,” Clifford said. “She got very, very lucky.”

Part of that luck was the fact that the truck was empty. If it had been full the car probably would have been run over by the back wheels instead of being dragged a short distance before the truck stopped, Clifford said. “The weight would have carried it straight on through,” he said.

The department responded to 18 reported fires during the two weeks ending Wednesday, with the most serious reported on March 30 in the 20600 block of East First Avenue. Two children home alone during spring break set the kitchen on fire when the older one decided to make doughnuts. “Obviously he turned up the heat too high and it caught on fire,” Clifford said.

The boy panicked and tried to put out the fire with water. “You can imagine what happened after that,” he said. “Obviously oil and water don’t mix. It creates its own little explosion and spreads the fire rapidly.”

Clifford said the best way to stop an oil fire is to put a lid on the pot or turn off the burner. Baking soda can also be used.

The fire spread into the attic and firefighters had to cut a hole in the roof and tear down wallboard to extinguish the flames.

Residents in the 4400 block of East 14th Avenue returned home Monday evening and discovered their garage door wouldn’t open and they could smell smoke. A fire was burning under the stairs inside the split-entry home. The cause of the fire couldn’t be determined because the area was heavily burned, Clifford said. The damage is estimated at $20,000.

There were eight vehicle fires reported but most were simply overheated engines. A 1994 Honda was found in flames in the 4000 block of South Evergreen Road on March 27. The car appeared to have been stripped and was missing its battery, radiator and spare tire, Clifford said. Investigators believe the fire was intentionally set to cover up the theft and dismantlement of the car, he said.

Monday morning a woman driving east on I-90 called 911 to report that the accelerator pedal on her 2005 Suzuki Aerio was stuck and she couldn’t stop her vehicle, Clifford said. She was told to put it into neutral, but as she approached the Sprague exit she noticed flames coming out from underneath her car. “With the engine running at high RPMs like that, it caught on fire,” he said.

She was able to pull over and get out of the car before it burned, Clifford said. “The whole thing burned up.”

Other minor calls included two residents reporting water leaks and a small child locked inside a vehicle. There were a total of 288 EMS calls during the week.

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