Drowsy driving blamed for I-90 crash that killed couple

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by ERIC WILKINSON / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on June 29, 2010 at 7:35 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 29 at 5:31 PM

NORTH BEND, Wash. - Investigators say the impact of the crash was ferocious.

Sean Mitchell, 29, his wife Lindsey, 26, their 4-year-old son Cameron and two family friends were driving westbound on Interstate 90 near North Bend just before 7 a.m. Tuesday. Their 2005 Dodge Neon drifted off the left shoulder, into the guardrail and then hit a concrete bridge abutment.

The driver's side of the car was crushed. Sean was behind the wheel. Lindsey was in the seat behind him tending to Cameron.

"Unfortunately, it hit the guard rail and rode the guard rail down in such a way that it hit that bridge abutment in the worst possible place," says Trooper Cliff Pratt, Washington State Patrol. "I believe they were seatbelted, but this is one of the cases that when you hit so hard that nothing's going to help you out."

The Dodge was packed full of people returning from a weekend camping trip in Eastern Washington. They were trying to get an early start home. But troopers say the driver apparently fell asleep -- not even the rumble strips on the side of the road could wake him.

Troopers say driving while drowsy is just as dangerous as driving drunk -- the consequences just as deadly.

"When you're drowsy, when you feel that head nod start happening, you've got to pull off," says Pratt.  "We're not even one-quarter mile from a major truck strop where they could have gotten off, could have gotten coffee."

Cameron suffered minor injuries, as did 22-year-old Rick Rigney. 15-year-old Austin Waage is in serious condition.

"He (Cameron) was actually strapped into a car seat, which we have at the scene, and it looks to us that that absolutely saved his life," said Pratt.

All three were taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for treatment and observation. 

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