Three people were killed Saturday afternoon when a pickup collided with a car attempting to cross U.S. Highway 195 in southwest Spokane.
The incident was the third fatal crash within Spokane city limits in four days.
It happened about 3 p.m. when a PT Cruiser heading east on Thorpe Road was struck by a northbound Dodge pickup as the car attempted to cross the highway, said Washington State Patrol Sgt. Gabe Olson.
State transportation plans have proposed changes at the intersection, but the plan has not been funded.
The WSP determined that the crash was caused by the PT Cruiser failing to yield for the pickup.
There were five Spokane residents in the 2002 PT Cruiser. The three women who died were sitting in the back seat, Olson said.
They were Maquaila L. Stacy, 20; Alaina K. Lawson, 24; and Jewel E. Gilmore, 20.
The driver, Bradley J. Brower, 21, and front passenger Kayden S. Gilmore, 21, who was married to Jewel, were transported to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.
Olson said two of the women killed were ejected from the car. The WSP later said in a news release that two of the women who died were not wearing seat belts and that it was unclear if the other woman who died or the men in the front seats were.
Spokane Fire Department Assistant Chief Brian Schaeffer said he believes seat belts could have made a difference.
“I saw the interior of that car,” he said. “There is not a lot of damage compared to other accidents I’ve seen there before.”
The woman driving the pickup, Pamela L. Raab, 48, of Elk, and her two passengers, 3-year-old and 8-year-old girls, were wearing seat belts and were uninjured in the crash.
Investigators do not believe drugs or alcohol were factors in the crash, Olson said.
Air bags deployed in both vehicles. After the initial impact, both vehicles crashed into different poles.
Latah/Hangman Neighborhood Council Chairman Kai Huschke said residents in that area have wanted improvements made to the intersection. The recent closure of the highway access from Inland Empire Way has funneled more traffic onto Thorpe, he said.
“It’s definitely been a concern of the neighborhood,” he said.
Huschke said the last time the neighborhood heard from state officials on the issue they were told that an overpass project for Thorpe was being planned but had no funding.
“The neighborhood is obviously strongly behind improving that intersection for access, but mostly for safety,” he said.
Schaeffer said his department doesn’t often respond to accidents at the intersection, and crashes in the U.S. 195 corridor have gone down dramatically since cable barriers were installed in the median several years ago.
“We would see high-speed crashes that would result in fatalities and severe injuries,” he said. “I really think those barriers they installed resulted in a huge reduction of traffic fatalities.”
Planning to boost safety along U.S. 195 south of Spokane by eliminating road crossings on the highway between Interstate 90 and Hatch Road dates to at least 1999.
A significant step was made when an interchange was completed at Cheney-Spokane Road in 2014. Construction of the $9.4 million interchange came after a number of serious accidents at the former intersection, including the death of a 16-year-old girl in 2009.
Plans also have called for interchanges at Meadowlane and Hatch roads, an underpass at 16th Avenue and an overpass at Thorpe Road. The full project has been estimated to cost $106 million in addition to the cost of the Cheney-Spokane Road interchange, according to a 2013 Spokesman-Review article.
State Rep. Jeff Holy, R-Cheney, said the intersection hasn’t been a top priority for funding in recent years.
“That has not got a lot of attention,” he said.
Holy, who drove past the crash on Saturday, said seeing the accident has made him realize the importance of safety improvements at the intersection.
“You hate to have something that’s tragic like this driving up the prioritization,” he said. “This will definitely put that intersection back on the list of things being considered.”
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