ELLENSBURG – Smoke from a fire in the median of Interstate 90 on Thursday afternoon caused two major vehicle accidents involving semi-tractors in the eastbound lanes, resulting in several injuries and one death.
Both accidents were reported at 3:05 p.m., about 12 to 13 miles east of Ellensburg. After the accidents, the eastbound lane was closed until 11 p.m. and traffic detoured, the Washington State Patrol reported.
A five-car accident sent Constance A. Wilson, 64, of Coulee Dam to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle with a hip injury, the State Patrol reported. She is in serious condition in intensive care this morning, a hospital spokeswoman said.
In that accident, four cars had stopped due to smoke from the brush fire, and a 2000 Kenworth tractor driven by Armando G. Lerena, 43, of Quincy, hit a Ford F-350 pickup truck driven by Darrel R. Coleman, 51, of Wenatchee. Coleman was not injured, but his pickup was pushed into the vehicle driven by Wilson. Two other vehicles – including one driven by James C. Mathews, 68, of Quincy – were also hit from from behind in the chain reaction, the State Patrol report said. Mathews was also not injured.
In a second accident, John P. Hazelton, 60, of University Place was killed when his semi-tractor crashed into another semi-tractor that had pulled to the side of the highway due to smoke, the State Patrol reported. A car then struck the rear of Hazelton’s semi. Three people were injured in that accident.
Jim Duck, dispatch coordinator for the Central Washington Interagency Communications Center, said the fire was about 150 acres, and spread to the north side of the highway. Local firefighters were sent to help, but were taken off the fire last night, he said.
State Patrol Lt. Kandi Patrick said the cause of the fire is under investigation.