SEATTLE – A Washington state woman who regularly monitors police scanner traffic unknowingly live-tweeted about her husband’s death in a freeway crash.
In a series of gut-wrenching tweets on Wednesday that grew more frantic, the Vancouver, Wash., mother first tweeted how horrible it was when she learned someone had died on Interstate 205 near the Oregon border.
Caran Johnson, who uses the handle @ScanCouver, then told her Twitter followers that she was trying not to panic because her husband, who drives the freeway, wasn’t picking up his phone and was late getting home.
“i’m a basketcase,” she tweeted.
Johnson also worried because her husband had epilepsy and was feeling faint when he left work early. She wondered whether he might have pulled over somewhere and fretted about how long she should wait for him before calling police.
As the events unfolded, she messaged Washington State Patrol spokesman Will Finn directly, asking whether he had descriptions of the vehicles involved in the collision. Finn said he didn’t, but it struck him as odd so he began looking into the crash.
“I contacted the investigator, and we put two and two together. I realized I had a situation on my hands,” Finn said Thursday while confirming that Johnson uses the Twitter handle – @ScanCouver – that appeared on the tweets.
Troopers later went to Johnson’s home to tell her that her husband, 47-year-old Craig Johnson, had died in the collision.
Caran Johnson then tweeted: “it’s him. he died.”
“It hits very close to home,” said Abbi Russell, a Washington Transportation Department spokeswoman who is familiar with tweets from @ScanCouver. “Yes, it is social media, but it is a community of its own.”
Finn said Craig Johnson’s car crossed the median about 2 p.m. Wednesday and collided with another car on I-205 about 5 miles north of Portland. The other driver, Carol S. Shelley, 54, of Tacoma, suffered serious injuries and was taken to a hospital, authorities said.