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Two scientists killed when truck loses logs


Washington State Patrol troopers walk through the scene of a crash on Highway 101 near Humptulips, Wash., on Tuesday. Daniel Johnson, 46, and Anthony Qamar, 62, two Seattle scientists who were on the Olympic Peninsula doing research on earthquakes, died after their car was struck by logs that tumbled off a log truck traveling in the opposite direction. 
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Patrol troopers walk through the scene of a crash on Highway 101 near Humptulips, Wash., on Tuesday. Daniel Johnson, 46, and Anthony Qamar, 62, two Seattle scientists who were on the Olympic Peninsula doing research on earthquakes, died after their car was struck by logs that tumbled off a log truck traveling in the opposite direction. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Donna Gordon Blankinship Associated Press

SEATTLE – The Washington state seismologist and another scientist known for research that could someday lead to more precise predictions of when volcanos will awaken were killed in an accident involving a log truck on the Washington coast.

State seismologist Anthony Qamar, 62, research associate professor of earth and space sciences at the University of Washington, died in Tuesday’s crash along with Daniel J. Johnson, 46, a former University of Puget Sound geophysics researcher, UW seismology spokesman Bill Steele said Wednesday.

Qamar and Johnson were on an Olympic Peninsula trip to check on instruments and collect data concerning the “slow-slip” quake that recently occurred off the coast, Steele said.

Because of an apparent equipment failure, logs fell off a trailer being pulled by a northbound 1992 Kenworth truck, State Patrol investigators wrote.

Johnson, who was driving a 1998 Saturn, drove off U.S. 101 to try to avoid the hazard but the car was still hit by some of the logs and shoved into timber and brush. Johnson and Qamar were pronounced dead at the scene.

The log truck was totaled but the driver, Garland Eugene Massingham, 40, of Centralia, escaped injury.

The scenic highway between Hoquiam and Humptulips on the western Olympic Peninsula was closed in both directions for about 8 1/2 hours.

Steele said Qamar, who joined the Washington faculty in 1983, had been a key scientist among those at the university who study earthquakes and volcanoes. Steele called his death a “huge loss” that has devastated colleagues.

Steve Malone, director of the UW seismology lab, said he shared responsibility for leading the lab with Qamar.

Qamar’s principal areas of research involved studying fault systems using both seismography and Global Positioning System satellite data.

“He was very good at both keeping track of some of the big picture things as well as working on very detailed problem solving,” Malone said. He credited Qamar with developing a series of creative approaches to tracking seismic developments at Mount St. Helens this past year.

Qamar was born in Redding, Calif., and raised in the Berkeley area. He earned his Ph.D. in geophysics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1971. He was an avid outdoorsman.

The job of state seismologist was established in 1965 after the Prince William Sound earthquake to funnel state money into the UW seismology lab and to give state government a liaison with the program, Steele said. Since the U.S. Geological Survey built a modern seismology network, state involvement in the program has decreased, but the title and funding have lingered.

In addition to being state seismologist, Qamar also chaired a state seismic safety subcommittee.

Dan Dzurisin, a seismologist at the Cascades Volcanic Observatory in Vancouver, Wash., said both scientists have made a lasting impact on the science of volcanos and earthquakes.

Johnson has installed GPS equipment around the globe, studied volcanos in Hawaii, Central America and in the Galapagos, and worked for the USGS at Mount St. Helens during the years immediately following its massive 1980 eruption, while he finished his undergraduate degree at the University of Puget Sound.

Johnson, who grew up in the Tacoma area and earned his Ph.D. in geology and geophysics at the University of Hawaii, was described by some of his colleagues as an entrepreneurial scientist.

He migrated from program to program, following grant money and projects according to his interests. Dzurisin said some of Johnson’s current work involved studying seismology’s hot research topic: slow earthquakes, which brought him to the Olympic Peninsula on the day he died.

In 2002 he began a series of projects at the UW and UPS.

“He loved what he did. He was just innately curious about earth processes in their own right. He was just intensely interested in how all that worked,” Dzurisin said.

Another current project involved studying a 40-mile-wide bulge in the earth under the Sisters volcanic area in Oregon, said Al Eggers, professor emeritus at UPS. Johnson was studying what looks like a Yellowstone-sized magma pool under the Oregon mountains that could someday reawaken the volcanos, he said.

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