No cause pinpointed in wreck that killed trooper

EVERETT — It has been more than five months since a Washington State Patrol motorcycle trooper died in a crash with a box truck, and detectives are continuing to try to piece together what went wrong.

Sean O’Connell, 38, died May 31 in an on-duty motorcycle collision while working traffic control related to the Skagit River bridge collapse. The Lake Stevens-area man was a 16-year veteran of the State Patrol.

He was killed in a collision at the intersection of Fir Island Road and Greenview Road in Conway in Skagit County. He’d checked the length of a vehicle backup and was returning to a traffic control point when the fatal accident occurred.

The case still is being worked by the agency’s Major Accident Investigation Team, made up of its most experienced collision detectives.

Progress has been slow because of the lack of any obvious cause, State Patrol spokesman Bob Calkins said.

“There was no egregious behavior by either party,” Calkins said.

In many cases, there are signs of alcohol or drug-impaired driving, speeding or an unfastened seatbelt that make it easier to determine what went wrong. Absent the obvious, detectives “must ferret out details” of possible contributing factors and that can take time, Calkins said.

Several years ago, for instance, State Patrol detectives researched migration patterns when a Lewis County deputy sheriff was killed after his patrol car struck an elk.

Calkins said there is no timetable for completing the investigation into O’Connell’s death.

“This appears to be a tragic accident,” he said, echoing what State Patrol Chief John Baptiste said shortly after the fatal crash.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com

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