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Suspected arson fires continue to flare

Fire investigators believe that the high number of brush fires spotted lately are the work of an arsonist. The fires are within Fire District 8 and there has been more than two dozen of them. Scott Maben wrote today's story on the fires - please keep an eye out for anything suspicious and call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233 with any reports. You can also contact Fire District 8 directly. 

Port-a-potty burns in northeast Spokane

Several engines responded to a structure fire shortly after 6 p.m. at Chief Garry Park in northeast Spokane.

That structure was a port-a-potty.

Firefighters doused the blaze in the 2500 block of East Mission Avenue shortly after it started. Witnesses reported seeing heavy smoke in the area, and the pungent fumes of outhouse aftermath wafted in the breeze.

A young boy who was nearby, clothed only in swim trunks, said several such fires have occurred in the neighborhood recently. Another neighbor, a man whose air conditioner was on the fritz and who came to the park to check out the engines, said some garages went up a couple years ago around the same time.

All that remained of the portable toilet Saturday evening was the charred roof near a softball field. Children were playing on an adjacent field when the final engine left the scene around 6:30 p.m.

Do you know this woman? Medical examiners need help identifying her next of kin.

The Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed the identity of the second individual killed in a mobile home fire early Monday morning, but need help contacting her family.

Robert “Amanda” Blanchard, 41, was found dead in the mobile home she lived in with her partner, Keith M. Barber, 50, according to a news release. The home at 2311 W 16th Ave. burned down shortly after midnight Monday. A cause of death has not been released for either victim.

Police are investigating her death as a murder suicide.

Blanchard was a transgender man living as a woman, police said. Investigators do not believe her identity was a factor in the murder-suicide.

Medical examiners have been unable to locate Blanchard’s relatives. Anyone with information about her next of kin is asked to call the medical examiner at 509-477-2296.

Male victim dies after Chattaroy mobile home explosion

One man died early Friday morning after suffering severe burns from a mobile home explosion in Chattaroy, Wash., according to Harborview Medical Center.

Michael Asselin, 51, and his wife, 57, were both badly burned when the mobile home Asselin lived in exploded Wednesday afternoon.

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the fire as a domestic violence situation. An investigator at the scene Thursday said it may have been an attempted homicide or a high-level assault.

The female victim remains in critical condition in the Intensive Care Unit at Harborview.

Related Coverage:

Official: Chattaroy fire suspicious

Chattaroy explosion may have been intentionally caused

Two severely burned in Chattaroy mobile home explosion

Jerome backs off attempt to bill building owner for $96K firefighting cost

The city of Jerome has backed off from its attempt to bill a downtown apartment building owner $96,000 for firefighting costs after a fire destroyed her building and damaged two others, the AP reports. “The invoice sent to Sylvia Moore was sent in error. No recovery costs will be sought against Ms. Moore for the fire occurring upon her property,” city officials said in a statement issued Thursday. After receiving the three-page, itemized bill, Moore told KTVB-TV, “You think you've got a fire department that's paid with your tax money. I don't know what to think. Really I don't.” Click below for the full AP report.

The fire that crafting caused…

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: JEROME, Idaho (AP) — Officials in Jerome say a fire that destroyed an apartment building and damaged two nearby buildings last month started when a woman accidentally left a hot glue gun on a plastic chair. Fire Chief Jack Krill says a woman who lived in the apartments was using the hot glue gun to make piñatas on April 30. She set the glue gun down to help a customer and then left to pick up her children from school, forgetting she left it plugged in. The fire spread from the apartment building to an adjacent restaurant and an office building. Krill says the estimated damage to the buildings is more than $1 million. Krill says the woman will not be cited for starting the fire because it was accidental. He did not release her name.

Arson targets Browne’s Addition garbage can

A garbage can in Browne’s Addition was the target of about four fires starting on Saturday morning.

Ray Ekins lives nearby and was walking his dog Duchess around 7 a.m. when he saw the first set of flames inside the barrel at Second Avenue and Chestnut Street. The same garbage can was on fire again about an hour later, he said.

“Poor garbage can,” Ekins said. He ended up calling 911 to report three of the fires.

Fire crews from Station 4 kept responding to the reported garbage fires and a Spokane Police officer parked nearby to keep an eye on the can, Spokane Police Sgt. Dan Ervin said.

The officer saw a man, later identified as Philip B. Lewis, 47, walk up to the can and allegedly light it on fire around 4 p.m, Ervin added.

Officers took Lewis into custody for two counts of second-degree arson and the fire was extinguished.

State sues feds over UI fire after ROTC BBQ

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The state of Idaho is suing the federal government for nearly $1.6 million because state attorneys say members of the U.S. Navy's Reserve Officer Training Corps negligently caused a fire at the University of Idaho. The lawsuit was filed in Boise's U.S. District Court earlier this week. Deputy Idaho Attorney General Mike Gilmore says members of the Navy ROTC program at the University of Idaho caused serious damage to a World War II-era building when charcoal briquettes were left smoldering after a BBQ last year. The state contends that that the federal government was responsible for the upkeep of the ROTC building, and that Navy ROTC officers and students should have known that dumping briquettes in a flowerbed would pose a fire risk. Click below for a full report.

Reckless driver’s car found on fire

Police attempted to pull over a reckless driver near Park and Trent late Tuesday night, but lost it after the driver ignored a stop light at the Havana Street and Mission Avenue intersection, according to a Spokane County Sheriff’s Office news release.

A car with a similar description was found reportedly on fire in a homeowner’s driveway near 200 N. Bessie, said the news release. Deputies confirmed it was the same car and fire crews responded to put out the fully engulfed car.

The fire was declared not arson, according to Spokane Valley Fire investigators, but it may have started somewhere in the engine compartment, they told police.

Police don’t know at this time who the driver was or if the vehicle was stolen. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Shopping firefighter investigates smoke at White’s Boots

Is there a firefighter in the house? When employees of White's Boots smelled smoke this morning at their east Spokane store, there was.

The firefighter was shopping for boots at the 4002 E. Ferry Avenue store and even checked out the smoke for them. He advised employees to call 911 as a precaution, employees said.

Nothing was showing when Spokane Fire crews arrived, but they investigated and found an overloaded heating system. It was shut off to prevent further damage.

Now employees are preparing for a cool day outside and inside.

Lewiston gas explosion caused big fire yesterday, no serious injuries

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) ― A construction worker digging with a backhoe in Lewiston struck a 4-inch natural gas line, sparking an explosion and fire that rocked the downtown area, destroyed the backhoe and damaged a nearby building. No one was seriously injured. The Lewiston Tribune reports flames shot 100-feet into the air after the explosion at 1:35 p.m. Monday. The newspaper and several nearby businesses were evacuated while firefighters battled the blaze. Avista spokesman Mike Tatko says three natural gas lines that serve the area were shut off within 20 minutes of the explosion. The fire was out about 20 minutes later. Laura Von Tersch is administrator for the city's Urban Renewal Agency. She says the quality of mapping used for the renovation project may be partly to blame for the explosion.

In this AP photo by the Lewiston Tribune's Kyle Mills, a firefighter keeps his distance as flames engulf an excavator on Fifth Street in downtown Lewiston, after it struck the gas line.
  

Photos show assault suspect; ID sought

Police are trying to identify a suspect in a Fourth of July assault that left a man beaten and burned at his makeshift camp near High Bridge Park.

  Surveillance photos show the victim at the Sunset Grocery with a young man police believe may have attacked him.

Spokane police officers contacted the victim at a hospital about 8 a.m. and learned he had been severely beaten and burned sometime during the night at his camp in a large gravel and grass pasture near Sunset Boulevard and Government Way.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online. Tipsters do not have to give their name to collect a reward but should leave a code name or number.

Kevin Ellison to stay in jail without bail

A pro football player who claims God told him to start a fire at his apartment complex in Liberty Lake will remain in jail amid concerns about his mental health.

Kevin Marcus Ellison, 25, who was dismissed from the Spokane Shock arena football team after his arrest June 14, repeatedly claimed to be Jesus Christ, including to an elderly woman who was at the hospital when Ellison was treated for smoke inhalation, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Aine Ahmed.

“He may have some mental issues,” Ahmed said.

Ellison also told Shock general manager Ryan Rigmaiden “that he was Jesus Christ, and that he was part of the rapture, and that God told him to start the fire,” Ahmed said. “He did not believe it (the fire) was going to harm him because God told him he'd protect him.”

Ellison told Rigmaiden he started the fire with a marijuana blunt.

Ellison, a former standout defense back for the University of Southern California Trojans, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a grand jury indictment charging him with malicious use of fire to damage commercial property. He faces five to 20 years in prison if convicted.

His public defender, Kim Deater, asked for Ellison to be allowed to leave jail and live with his mother and brother in Los Angeles, though she said they wants him to undergo mental health treatment.

“They think that might be an issue,” Deater said.

Deater described Ellison as “a good friend, a good teammate, a good son, a good player.”

She said his success in football shows he can work toward a goal with a large group of people.

“That takes cooperation, that takes a bond, and that takes character,” Deater said.

She also said Ellison did not tell the elderly woman at the hospital that he was Jesus - he simply grasped her hand and prayed with her.

But Imbrogno ordered Ellison to stay in the Spokane County Jail after Ahmed described a series of bizarre behavior that included statements from a Shock dancer who said she fears Ellison.

“She became afraid of Mr. Ellison after he texted her specifically that he was Jesus Christ,” Ahmed said.

The woman, who was not identified, also said Ellison asked her to marry him just moments after meeting her.

He said Ellison's roommate, Chris Tucker, told investigators that Ellison told him he'd been Baptized just a few days before the fire. Tucker also said Ellison had offered him Vicodin to ease his pain while at an away game in Chicago recently.

It was Tucker who first realized there was a fire in the apartment he shared with Ellison.

The defensive lineman for the Shock told investigators he first thought the smoke was from burning food. He even took the batteries out of the smoke detector in his bedroom before he realized the fire was coming from Ellison's room, Ahmed said. He alerted Ellison to the fire, but Ellison told him “I'm good.” and didn't leave.

Ellison escaped the fire by jumping from a window of the third-floor apartment. The fire caused about $100,000 in damage. Ahmed emphasized that children live next door to Ellison's apartment.

Ellison was drafted in the sixth round by the San Diego Chargers in 2009. He was released by the team following a May 2010 arrest in San Diego on a controlled-substance charge after police reportedly found 100 Vicodin tablets in his car without a prescription. The charges was dropped.

Ellison joined the Seattle Seahawks but was released shortly before the 2010 season opener.

Shock player: God told me to start fire

A pro football player who leapt from his burning third-floor apartment in Liberty Lake Thursday said he started the blaze with a marijuana blunt because God told him to, authorities say.

 Kevin Marcus Ellison, 25, a starting linebacker/defensive back for the Spokane Shock arena football team, initially told firefighters that he’d been smoking in bed, but evidence collected at the scene didn’t match that explanation, said Spokane Valley Fire Marshal Kevin Miller.

Read the rest of the story here.

‘Middle-finger salute’ preceded fire

A man accused of trying to light his apartment complex on fire gave a surveillance camera the middle-finger salute before doing so, fire officials allege.

Ian W. Godfrey, 29, said he was angry with a flier being distributed at the HiFumi En Apartments, 926 E. 8th Ave., when he lit one on fire and walked through the building, according to the Spokane Fire Department.

The smoke triggered the apartment's overhead sprinklers. Fire officials suspected arson, and the apartment manager recognized Godfrey from the surveillance video.

Godfrey was arrested that day for attempted first-degree arson. He was released on his own recognizance after appearing in Superior Court Wednesday.

Boy faces arson charge for house fire

A 13-year-old boy has been arrested allegedly setting fire to a vacant home in north Spokane last month.

The boy was booked into Spokane County Juvenile Detention Center after being arrested at Glover Middle School. He was to appear before a judge on Monday, officials said.

Investigators with the Spokane Fire Department say the boy confessed to setting fire to a home at 4218 N. Ash St. on March 30. Crews quickly extinguished the blaze, which was confined to one bedroom and the roof area above that room. The rest of the home suffered extensive heat and smoke damage.

The suspect faces a charge of first-degree arson.

Reward targets truck fire arson suspect

A man suspected of setting fire to a truck in exchange for methamphetamine as part of a love triangle has a reward being offered for tips that lead to his capture.

Jesse James Icard, 43, is wanted on an arson charge for burning a 1975 Ford truck outside the Maple Tree Motel, 4824 E. Sprague Ave., on Feb. 6.

Police believe Odean B. Chappel, 44, gave Icard methamphetamine in exchange for burning the truck with a Molotov cocktail. Chappel was upset with the truck's owner, Donald S. Goergette, for staying with his ex-girlfriend.

Chappel remains jailed on $50,000 bond for arson and harassment charges. Icard, 5-foot-8 and 135 pounds, is wanted on a $30,000 warrant.

Crime Stoppers on Thursday offered a reward for tips that lead to his arrest.

Icard has a 24-year criminal history that includes convictions for vehicular assault. He last gave an address on Highway 231 in Springdale.

Anyone with information on his current location is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online.

Investigators: Fire that razed two business likely arson

Fire investigators say a fire that destroyed a helmet business and a vacuum cleaner business Friday in Coeur d'Alene was likely caused by arson.

Investigators found a gas can under a desk in the building housing Helmet Outlet USA, the Coeur d’Alene Press reports. The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department stated that Fire Marshal Jeryl Archer II determined that gasoline had been poured on the desk before the fire started.  

The Friday night blaze also destroyed a Kirby vacuum business located in the same building.

Michael Murphy, who owns the building and the helmet business, said both are considered a total loss.

Luxury Post Falls Home Total Loss

Firefighters pour water on a luxury home that burned early Thursday Post Falls. The riverside home appears to be a total loss. The house, assessed at $1.54 million, is owned by Leonard & Pam Wallace. SR story & more photos here. (SR photo: Jesse Tinsley)

Cigar leads to arrest in July burglary

A cigar left at a burglary scene last summer led detectives on Wednesday to arrest a 21-year-old man as a suspect.

DNA on the cigar that was sent to the state crime lab matched DNA that Trevor Codi Frantz provided when he was convicted of a felony first-degree theft in April 2010, according to court documents.

Detectives seized the cigar while investigating a burglary in the 8500 block of East Cataldo Avenue in Spokane Valley July 30. They believe the burglars used the cigar to try to light the home on fire.

A career criminal now serving life in prison, Larry A. Powell, fired shots at a neighbor who tried to stop the burglary. Powell was arrested shortly after the shooting. He already was wanted for not showing up for the end of his trial for a different robbery case.

Frantz was booked into jail Wednesday about 1 p.m. on charges of attempted first-degree arson and first-degree burglary.

Photos of Newman Lake home destroyed in fire

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The Spokane Valley Fire Department provided the photos above of the Newman Lake home at 12611 N. East Newman Lake Drive completely destroyed by fire just after 1 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 24. Valley Fire assisted Newman Lake Fire District 13 with the fire under a mutual aid agreement. The fire is still under investigation.

Fire destroys Newman Lake home

A home at at 12611 N. East Newman Lake Drive was destroyed by fire shortly after 1 a.m. Tuesday morning. The three people inside when the fire began were able to evacuate safety, said Spokane Valley Fire Department Assistant Fire Marshal Bill Clifford. Valley Fire sent two trucks, a battalion chief and a fire investigator to the scene under a mutual aid agreement with Newman Lake Fire District 13. The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Check here for updates throughout the day. 
  

Sante kitchen back in business Thursday

Sante Restaurant and Charcuterie will fire up the kitchen tomorrow to serve a full menu for the first time since a Dec. 11 kitchen fire.

The grease fire caused $35,000 in damage and forced the restaurant to trim breakfast and lunch service, and eliminate dinner service while repairs were made. The reduced menu featured cold sandwiches, charcuterie, salads and soups made with temporary equipment.

The fire spared the historic Liberty Building, which the restaurant shares with Auntie's Bookstore.

On Thursday, Sante returns to full service starting at 9 a.m.

“We're thrilled to get back to our full menu,” says owner and executive chef Jeremy Hansen in a news release. “These past several weeks have been tough for us, but to be honest, they've also been extremely eye-opening to the level of community support we've received.”

The menu includes a return of Sante's Brasserie Menu, a Parisian bistro-themed menu featuring dishes that are $20 or less. Other options include the Grass Fed 50/50 Burger, made from Rocky Ridge Ranch's specially-bred Wagyu-Angus cross, the American version of Kobe beef ($16). House-made gnocchi served with sherry glaze, guanciale and mushroom duxelle ($10) is also on the dinner menu.

Breakfast options include honey wheat French toast ($8) and duck hash, made from duck confit, house-made cranberry sauce, duck egg, kale, potatoes and onions ($15).

Hansen and his wife Kate are on a culinary tour of Southeast Asia for the rest of the month. While they're gone, the cooks will be offering two special entrees each evening - including a fish du jour and beef du jour.

The restaurant, 404 W. Main Ave., will be open Sunday through Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. through January 29.

Then, the restaurant closes temporarily to install new, upgraded kitchen equipment and additional counter space to help speed production.

When Sante reopens in time for Valentine's Day, they'll present a new menu and revamped wine list.

Reach the restaurant at (509) 315-4613.

There are more details on the restaurant's website or on Facebook.

Extremist in fire faced child rape charge

Investigators work the scene where a day earlier Steven Stanbary used a gun to hold off police and firefighters while a house burned to the ground in Washougal, Wash. on Dec. 8. (AP Photo/Zachary Kaufman, Pool)

VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) — A white supremacist with Idaho ties who is suspected of killing his wife and her sister and shooting at firefighters before he died in their burning home on Dec. 7 had been scheduled to surrender the next day to face a child rape charge, authorities said.

 Authorities didn't know before the incident that suspect Steven D. Stanbary of Washougal had a history of being heavily armed, schizophrenic, anti-government and violent, Clark County senior deputy prosecutor Dustin Richardson told The Columbian in a story Thursday.

“Had that been clear, the whole process of having an attorney turn him in … might have been different,” Richardson said.

Before the fire, Richardson had just a basic criminal history that showed Stanbary had only misdemeanor convictions because more serious charges had been reduced by plea bargains or other circumstances.

It was later learned that police in Idaho had discovered six AK-47s and a grenade launcher in Stanbary's possession during a 1994 arrest. But that case was dropped to a minor assault in a plea deal.

In addition, information emerged that Stanbary had stopped receiving treatment for delusional schizophrenia in 1988 when he refused to take medications. At that time, his then-wife, Debra Hughes, told Idaho police she believed he was dangerous.

Richardson said he might have changed his plans for letting Stanbary turn himself in through his attorney if the records had shown a pattern involving weapons. However, police generally don't seek more information on criminal histories of suspects unless the cases show a specific pattern of criminal behavior or dishonesty, he said.

The prosecutors credited the media for bringing those additional details to light after Stanbary's violent death.

Reports released Wednesday show Washougal police suspect Stanbary molested a girl over a number of years beginning when she was 9 and ending several years before she reported it in December 2010.

Richardson had concerns about several aspects of the case and said he didn't believe he had strong enough evidence to charge Stanbury until late November. Stanbary was supposed to turn himself in with an attorney on Dec. 8.

“He obviously had different plans,” Richardson said.

On Dec. 7, gunfire and exploding ammunition kept firefighters away from his burning home. The three bodies were later found inside.

Stanbary's wife, Leona, told police she suspected the girl may have made up the abuse story so she could move out and live with her boyfriend.

“I'll kill him if it happened,” Leona Stanbary told the detective, referring to Steven Stanbary, the police report said.

The girl and her boyfriend said in separate interviews with police that Steven Stanbary was a binge drinker who became nasty when inebriated.

Stanbary was arrested in Bonner County in December 1994 after threatening to kill his ex-wife, children and himself. He was found to have numerous weapons, including AK-47s.

Update on Industrial Park fire

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There is some new information available on the fire at Spur Industries in the Spokane Valley Industrial Park on Tuesday. According to a press relase from Spokane Valley Fire Department Capt. Pat Schaffer, it was a metal shaving collection bag that was on fire on the exterior of the building. Crews determined that the metal shavings were not flammable and were not on fire. A firefighter used a forklift to remove the bag and crews doused the flames with foam, Schaffer said. The cause is under investigation and damage is estimated at $10,000. All photos courtesy the Spokane Valley Fire Department.

Police: Man tried to light wife on fire

An unemployed Dalton Gardens man allegedly doused his wife with gasoline and tried to light her on fire during a dispute at their home last weekend.

 Daniel Joe Zehm, 52, of 6103 15th St., was taken into custody by Kootenai County sheriff's deputies following an altercation that began Saturday night and culminated with the alleged attempt to incinerate Sondra Zehm, 58.

According to sheriff's reports, the argument began when Daniel Zehm told his wife he thought a nurse at his mother's assisted living place was attractive.

Daniel Zehm allegedly pinned his wife on their bed and threatened to kill her, her dog and her family. He then drenched his wife with a bucket of gasoline when she had her back to him while making coffee the following morning.

Sondra Zehm, who deputies say still smelled of gasoline after a shower, said that her husband was flicking the red lighter she'd given him to light a fire in his shop as he moved toward her.

Zehm was arrested on an attempted murder charge, but it was dismissed today in Kootenai County District Court. He was released from jail on $200,000 for felony charges of burglary and aggravated battery.

Fire at Wal-Mart leads to arson arrest

A man was arrested on a felony arson charge recently for allegedly lighting a fire at the Airway Heights Wal-Mart using sanitation wipes.

Stephen D. Rye, 55, was captured on surveillance video lighting the fire about 4:45 a.m. on Friday and watching it burn until Wal-Mart employees arrived to put it out, according to court documents prepared by Spokane County sheriff's detectives.

Rye was also seen taking the sanitation wipes, which are 65 percent alcohol, from a dispenser at Wal-Mart, lighting them on fire and kicking it down an aisle, igniting Wal-Mart fliers that were on the floor, police allege.

A motive for the alleged crime is unclear. Rye spent the weekend in jail and appeared in Superior Court Monday on a first-degree arson charge.

Animal rights activists claim credit for blaze at fireworks and fur business

That fire early this morning at Rocky Mountain Fireworks & Fur Co. that temporarily shut down an Idaho highway? AP reporter John Miller is reporting that an animal rights group has claimed responsibility for the blaze.

An e-mail from anti-fur activists described details of the fire, Miller reported; agents for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are leading the investigation. A request for comment was forwarded to the federal agency's Seattle office.

The fire was contained without significant damage to fireworks or fur articles, according to the Middleton Fire Department. It fire closed down Idaho Highway 30 as well as a U.S. Interstate 84 exit; there were no injuries. Business owner Dennis Heck didn't answer a phone call. Heck sells trapping supplies and buys bobcat pelts; click below for Miller's full report.

Fire Damages 2 Historic Restaurants

Fire investigators at daybreak began going through the remains of two historic Garland District restaurants – one a Depression-era icon and the other a popular diner featured in several Hollywood films – that were heavily damaged Sunday night by fire. Spokane firefighters initially tried battling the three-alarm blaze inside Mary Lou’s Milk Bottle, 802 W. Garland Ave., at 8:42 a.m., but they had to pull back as heavy flames spread around them and over to Ferguson’s Cafe next door, authorities said. Both structures were heavily damaged, and investigators said it was questionable whether either one of them could be restored. Damage to the roofs of both eateries was severe, officials said. The fire apparently started at the rear of the Milk Bottle, but the garbage receptacle was not so badly damaged that it would have been the source of the fire, an investigator said/Spokesman-Review. More here. (SR photo: Dan Pelle)

Question: Which Inland Northwest landmark of the past do you miss most?

RV on fire on Argonne off ramp

An RV is in flames on the westbound I-90 Argonne off ramp in Spokane Valley. Spokane Valley Fire Department crews are responding. An officer also just radioed in that a gawking driver caused an accident on I-90 near the off ramp.