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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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2 teens die after vehicle goes off cliff

From staff and wire reports

An Eastern Washington University student and a Washington State University student were killed during a weekend camping trip when the Jeep Cherokee they were riding in plunged 600 feet off a cliff near Ellensburg.

WSU student Tom Melbye, 19, and Eastern student Nickolas Garcia, 19, died in the accident early Saturday, about 15 miles north of this Kittitas County town, sheriff’s deputies said.

Cameron Haynes, 19, a student at Central Washington University, was hurt in the crash but able to call emergency dispatchers. He was treated at Kittitas Valley Community Hospital for injuries to his head and face.

The three men had taken Melbye’s Jeep out at about 2:15 a.m. on some trails around their campsite when Melbye lost control of the vehicle while attempting a turn on the canyon rim, said Kittitas County Undersheriff Clayton Myers.

Myers said it defies logic that Haynes survived and was able to reach a camp to tell others of the accident.

Search and rescue teams found the spot where the Jeep went over the cliff but could not descend to the wreckage. They had to use a logging road in the area to reach the vehicle.

According to rescue workers, Melbye and Garcia were dead when they reached them. Their bodies were taken to an Ellensburg funeral home.

Melbye and Garcia were childhood friends who graduated from Moses Lake High School in 2004.

Haynes’ brother, Shea, was also on the trip but was sleeping at the group’s camp on Upper Reecer Creek when the crash occurred. Kittitas Valley Community Hospital staff said Sunday afternoon that Cameron Haynes was no longer there.

Investigators believe alcohol may have been a factor in the accident, Myers said.

“The higher you go in the mountains, the less room there is for error,” he said.

“You don’t have much room for mistakes.”

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