A wrong way driver hit several vehicles including two Washington State Patrol cars on Interstate 5 in Tukwila Friday morning.
It happened around 4 a.m. A WSP spokesman said an SUV with several people inside was headed the wrong way in the southbound lanes. Troopers say the underage driver is suspected of DUI.
Troopers say the SUV may have traveled up to five miles in the wrong direction, hitting at least one other vehicle.
"The initial calls came around Boeing Field, so we're talking 5 or 6 miles at least. But if you look at, she came on maybe from the downtown area or even Michigan Street. It could even be farther than that," said Trooper Chris Webb.
The driver hit one state trooper vehicle and slowed down significantly. A second trooper, Joseph DePalma, who is a cadet in his second week on the force, was able to force the SUV to the side of the road.
DePalma's Field Operations Trainer, Trooper Richard Bjorkman, was in the passenger seat and instructed DePalma on how to force the SUV off the road.
“When the suspect driver got out of the vehicle after being hit by the second patrol car, she actually was blaming that state trooper for hitting her. [She] seemed disoriented, [she] didn’t know exactly where she was," said Webb.
Mohammed Kimo was on his way home from a friend’s house in Tukwila when he realized he was in the wrong way driver’s path.
“It was coming directly in front of my face it was like a flash light,” said Mohammed Kimo.
He managed to swerve to avoid a head on collision but was still sideswiped by the woman’s SUV.
“If I didn’t move, I was going to die, that’s what I’m thinking,” said Kimo, who has minor scrapes and dents to his car but was uninjured.
Kimo’s son Ibrahim Abdalah says without the quick thinking of Cadet DePalma, the situation could have ended a lot worse.
“He’s a hero he saved what could have been a tragedy a lot of people could have lost their lives,” said Abdalah.
“As a new trooper would be he’s just excited for doing the job,” said Mike DePalma, a WSP Assistant Chief.
Mike DePalma, Cadet DePalma’s father, says despite being only two weeks into field training, his son and training officer Bjorkman took the right action.
“The fact that both of the troopers were able to resolve this without any additional injury I think speaks to their training and decision making,” said Assistant Chief DePalma.
The wrong way driver has three speeding tickets in the last year. She faces drunk driving, reckless driving and reckless endangerment charges.
Meanwhile, Cadet DePalma officially becomes a Trooper in March.
Troopers say that if DePalma and his trainer had not been successful, there could have been more significant injuries because there were about a half dozen vehicles driving northbound on the SR 518 ramp to merge when trooper DePalma stopped the wrong way driver.
The first trooper was transported with minor injuries.