State to pay family $10M over fatal tree incident

The Washington State Department of Transportation has agreed to a $10 million settlement in an incident that left two family members dead and others seriously injured.

SEATTLE, Wash. – The state of Washington will pay $10 million to the family members who survived a tree fall incident December 21, 2012 that killed Tim and Cheryl Owen of Bothell.

The Owen's three kids Jaime, Jeremy and Jessica survived the incident, but they still deal with medical issues today. Jessie Owen is paralyzed and Jaime Mayer walks with a cane, but Jeremy Owen had only minor injuries. Steven Mayer, the Owen's son in law, was also in the car. He now uses a forearm arm crutch every single day. Their medical bills have been in the millions.

The family was headed to Leavenworth when the tree hit their truck. The family believes that unusual weather in the area should have closed the road. That day there were freezing temperatures and an unusually heavy amount of snowfall on the trees.

The family's attorney said that just three days prior Chelan County issued a Declaration of Emergency as they were taking extra precautions to ensure public safety. It was at 1:30 p.m. on December 21, 2012 when a 125-foot-tall tree fell on the family.

"They were driving through a potential war zone and had no idea that a bomb was going to fall," Attorney Karen Koehler said.

The Department of Transportation accepted partial responsibility for the deaths in the incident, but the family praised the state for how they dealt with the claim. The DOT released a statement Friday afternoon.

"This was a tragic and serious incident for the members of the Owen family and our thoughts remain with them," the DOT said. "The state has entered into a negotiated settlement with the Owen family. The settlement will be funded from the state's self-insured liability account."

The attorney for the family acknowledged that in the Northwest trees could fall on the roadway at any point, but on the day of the incident she believes this crash could have been prevented had the state taken appropriate action when it came to the closure of the road.


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