Four teenagers and a 54-year-old woman were hospitalized Wednesday night after a speeding car hit their van and sent it tumbling down a steep embankment near Priest River, Idaho.
The teens and their driver were part of a youth group from Westminster Chapel in Bellevue on a trip celebrating high school graduations. One passenger may need surgery.
Darin Pankratz, the father of one of the teens, said he’s “amazed that anyone walked away.”
According to the Idaho State Police, John D. Kuhn, 65, of Newport, Washington, was driving a Honda Accord “at a high rate of speed” on U.S. Highway 2 when he struck the Chevy Express van from behind at about 10:20 p.m.
Kuhn’s car came to rest on the northbound shoulder, and the van “left the south shoulder where it struck the embankment three times, rolled and came to a rest on its tires,” the ISP said in a news release.
A Bonner County sheriff’s deputy had just clocked Kuhn’s car going 96 mph and was preparing to pull him over when the crash occurred, said ISP spokeswoman Teresa Baker.
“It all happened at once,” she said. “The deputy went to turn around and saw the cloud of dust coming up the hill.”
Police believe Kuhn was intoxicated and likely will recommend a felony charge of aggravated DUI, Baker said. He was taken by ambulance to Kootenai Health, where he was listed in fair condition Thursday afternoon.
The driver of the van, Mary F. Pearson, of Redmond, Washington, was taken to Bonner General Hospital, as was one of her teenage passengers, Keirsten Sprick, 17, also of Redmond. A hospital official declined to release their conditions Thursday morning.
Caitlin J. Pankratz, 17, of Bothell, Washington, was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected from the van, the ISP said. She and Kelsie L. Jelsema, 18, of Redmond, were treated and released from Newport Hospital, according to a spokesperson.
Brielle Babcock, 17, of Bothell, was airlifted to Kootenai Health, where she was listed in good condition Thursday afternoon.
Both vehicles were badly damaged, and the road was closed for four and a half hours. The crash is still under investigation.
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