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UPDATE | Agate Pass accident
Two islanders remain at Harborview Medical Center following a two-car collision at Agate Pass that closed the highway to Bainbridge Island for more than four hours Monday.
A Bainbridge man, 54, remains in serious condition at the Seattle hospital’s trauma Intensive Care Unit.
A 75-year-old island woman was moved out of the Intensive Care Unit Thursday morning and is in satisfactory condition, according to hospital officials.
The accident occurred at approximately 2:09 p.m. when a southbound Kia Sedona minivan driven by the woman crossed the center line on Highway 305 and struck a four-door Lexus sedan just before the Agate Pass Bridge. The Lexus spun across the road and landed on a guardrail.
Assistant Chief Luke Carpenter of the Bainbridge Island Fire Department rolled up to the accident just after the crash. He was on his way to a meeting at Kitsap County Central Communications, the county’s 911 operator, in Bremerton.
“It’s one of those deals when you come around the corner there, and boom, there it is,” he said.
Carpenter radioed CENCOM, then ran up to the crunched vehicles to check on the drivers and assess how emergency responders should handle the scene once they arrived. He also made sure Washington State Ferries and Kitsap Transit were notified about the accident, which eventually led to a four-hour-plus shutdown of the highway.
He found the air bags in both vehicles had deployed, but the drivers were bloodied and semi-conscious.
“It was readily apparent that both people were badly injured and that it was going to require extraction to get them out of their cars,” he said.
It was also obvious a medical airlift would be needed.
“We immediately ordered two helicopters because I knew they would both have to be flown,” he recalled.
Emergency crews pulled the woman driver out first. They started to pry the driver’s side door open, then resorted to sheer muscle power.
“Some firefighters were able to open the door just with brute strength,” Carpenter said.
A mechanical extraction tool was needed to remove the other driver, and it took about 30 minutes to rescue the man from his vehicle.
Carpenter praised the efforts of the emergency crews at the scene. More than half were volunteers or off-shift firefighters.
“Our personnel were great. It’s one of those situations where there were 20 people there and they all worked in concert,” he said.
It was a tense situation, Carpenter added.
“It’s really very stressful. You’re looking at two people who are obviously gravelly ill and you know the clock is ticking,” he said.
The two drivers were both airlifted from the Bainbridge Island Fire Department’s station on Madison Avenue less than an hour after the accident.
In a rare double airlift, two helicopters from Airlift Northwest arrived at the fire hall before 3 p.m. and landed on the grassy lawn on each side of the helipad. The three-person crews from each aircraft waited as emergency workers extracted a man and a woman who were trapped in both vehicles and brought them to the station for transport.
The first patient arrived approximately 15 minutes before the second. The first helicopter was in the air and headed toward a Seattle hospital as the sirens on the second-arriving medic unit could be heard coming south on Highway 305 to the fire station just after 3 p.m.
The accident blocked both lanes of the highway and created traffic jams all the way to Winslow.
Access to the bridge was cut off, largely isolating the island until the scene was cleared and the bridge was opened just before 6 p.m. Drivers on the Kitsap Peninsula side were reportedly backed up all the way to Poulsbo.
Also caught in the traffic: a Bainbridge Island school bus.
District spokeswoman Pam Keyes said the bus had just two stops left on its route.
District officials called the parents of eight students who lived on Reitan Road, and they came and picked up their children and walked them home.
Three other students from Toad Holler Lane who were still on the bus were delivered home after the bus was able to turn around.
All drivers were back from their routes by 3:24 p.m.
The extended highway closure left some stuck on the island choosing to remain at work, while others headed to the island’s restaurants. The accident and resulting traffic snarl remained among the hot topic for the rest of the week as islanders shared stories of how long they were stuck on the road, how they waited out the jam, or the alternative routes they tried once the bridge reopened.
The Bainbridge Island Police Department continues its investigation into the accident and is asking any witnesses to the crash to contact detectives.
Richard D. Oxley can be reached at 206-842-6613 or firstname.lastname@example.org.