Washington State Patrol closed State Route 24 near Vernita Bridge for most of Thursday morning to investigate a fatal crash.
The collision, east of Othello, occurred around 5 a.m. in the Hanford Reach National Monument wildlife refugee, according to Trooper John Bryant, a WSP spokesperson.
A Honda Fit, driven by an 18-year-old male, traveling eastbound passed several vehicles on the two-lane highway and attempted to pass two semi-trucks in oncoming traffic before colliding with a Chrysler PT Cruiser head-on, according to the initial investigation.
“They impacted at a pretty high rate of speed. Both vehicles caught fire,” Bryant said.
The speed limit on the highway is 60 mph.
The passenger in the Honda Fit, a 15-year-old female, died at the scene, Bryant said. The two occupants of the PT Cruiser, both in their 60s, were transported to Cadillac Hospital in Richland by Life Flight. The male driver was transported to the same hospital by ambulance.
Bystanders helped get the occupants out of the vehicles as they caught fire, Bryant said.
Bryant said there is no regulation for how many vehicles a driver is allowed to pass by going into the oncoming lane.
“It’s legal to pass as long as you have the ability to make the pass safely,” he said. “It doesn’t mean it was a good idea for him to pass.”
If a driver is behind a vehicle traveling below the speed limit on a two-lane road, they are allowed to exceed the speed limit to pass in the oncoming lane, Bryant said. Then, the vehicle must return to the speed limit.
The highway between Vernita Bridge and the State Route 243 junction reopened close to 10:30 a.m. The state Department of Transportation had multiple detours in place, so the closure did not cause a major obstruction, Bryant said.
This story is developing and will be updated.
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