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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘You’d think nobody survived’: Spokane Dutch Bros. employees celebrate new milestone 2 years after severe crash

If 18-year-old Emelia Parker was standing 2 feet to the right at the Freya Street Dutch Bros on Aug. 20, 2021, she likely would have been killed.

This week, she flew almost 430 miles from Boise, where she goes to college, to celebrate Wednesday’s grand reopening of the coffee stand. It was destroyed when a dump truck driver crashed through the popular drive-thru that day two years ago. Nine other cars were hit and seven people were sent to the hospital. One person broke her pelvis, but no one else was severely injured.

McGavin Medrain pleaded guilty to vehicular assault in February 2022 and was sentenced to 15 months in prison for the incident. A state trooper conducted a sobriety test after the crash and determined Medrain was intoxicated on an unknown substance, court documents said.

Emelia Parker’s father, Kevin Parker, owns the South Freya Street Dutch Bros. He is a former state legislator and a teacher at both Whitworth and Gonzaga universities. As of now, Kevin Parker really does believe in miracles, especially after all the employees – one of them being his daughter – survived the crash.

“The common phrase I kept hearing from police and fire was that it was a miracle,” he said. “They were shocked everyone was alive.”

The driver crashed through the building just 2 feet from where Emelia Parker was standing. The force of the impact caused employees to fly backwards and out of the way of the truck.

Jasmine Suwanmaneedang, a Dutch Bros employee, wasn’t with the company at the time. But her grandfather, her mother and her sister were all piled in their white Ford Flex, waiting at the drive-thru window for their drinks. When the truck hit, their car caved in on the left side. The windshield shattered. The bumper detached. Her three family members had to be removed from the car through the sunroof, she said.

“I was at work. My twin brother came in. All he said was, ‘Mom got hit, we have to go to the hospital.’ I cried the whole way,” Suwanmaneedang said. “Finally I got a FaceTime call from my family in the ambulance. They had their neck braces on … They were only there for a couple hours, with cuts and bruises … But it was so shocking.”

Suwanmaneedang scrolled through pictures of the car on her cellphone outside the Dutch Bros. She pointed to one photo of the car, buried in rubble.

“Looking at the car, you’d think nobody survived,” she said at the reopening on Wednesday.

Immediately after the crash, nobody could leave the coffee stand. There was no longer an exit, just a pile of wreckage. Emelia Parker said a concerned customer sprang into action and broke the glass on one of the windows so the rest of the employees could climb out of it.

“I was scared, I just wanted out of the stand,” Emelia Parker said. “But I was fine. I didn’t get hurt.”

The fire department called Kevin Parker, and he raced to Freya Street as soon as he could – all the employees were huddled together, standing out of the way of the chaotic mess of concrete and glass.

But the Dutch Bros “family,” as they call it, was resilient.

“They were already focused on moving forward,” Kevin Parker said.

Kyle Duncan works at a different Dutch Bros, but on Wednesday he was outside of the grand reopening in the pouring rain with a loudspeaker, running in circles and jumping up and down. With glitter on his face, he was doing his best to energize the employees and continued to greet the customers in the drive-thru with a smile that never faded. He referred to himself as “the hype man.”

Duncan recalled just how special the moments after the crash were – he said the Parker family did as much as they could for the employees involved, which included paying them for the work they lost so they could continue to afford their bills. The family also had Dutch Bros employees over for dinner at their home, he said.

Freya Street Dutch Bros offered $1 off all drinks on Wednesday as part of the reopening. The company wrote on Facebook that a dollar from each of those drinks is going to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center. This is all part of the atmosphere, Duncan said.

“I have never had a job to where it’s like a family,” he said. “They are there for us in more ways than one.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated on Sept. 28, 2023, to reflect the extent of one person’s injuries.