4 killed when truck leaves road, lands in pond in Tulalip

TULALIP — Four young adults died early Tuesday morning after their truck left the roadway and landed in a pond on the Tulalip Indian Reservation.

A call came in to 911 around 3:30 a.m. reporting that a truck had crashed near the 7500 block of Totem Beach Road. It climbed over a concrete barrier and landed in a tribal fish-rearing pond, Snohomish County sheriff’s spokeswoman Shari Ireton said.

The victims were two men and two women. All died at the scene. Authorities didn’t release their names Tuesday while their families were being notified but the loss was being felt among tribal members.

“Any death is heartbreaking, when we lose loved ones so young it is even more shocking and painful,” Tulalip Tribes Chairman Mel Sheldon told the tribal newspaper, See-Yaht-Sub.

He asked people on the reservation “to hold your loved ones close and to give comfort to each other during this trying time.”

Adam Vassar lost his cousin in Tuesday’s accident.

“It’s just sad,” he said. “We are supposed to live longer than all of our elders.”

Several people who visited the crash scene identified one of the people who died as Dylan Monger, 22. He’d grown up in the area and recently worked at Boom City, a tribal fireworks sales venue.

Names of the other victims were mentioned on social media but aren’t being included in this story pending confirmation that their families have been notified by authorities. All of the dead are in their teens or early 20s.

The Snohomish County Medical Examiner will confirm the identifications of the victims, as well as their cause and manner of death, Ireton said. The Marysville School District on Tuesday declined to provide any information pending the medical examiner’s release. Most of those who died in the crash had previously attended Marysville schools.

The stretch of roadway where the tragedy occurred is a bridge that overlooks Tulalip Bay and crosses between two hatchery ponds. The truck apparently rounded a downhill curve, passed through a stop sign near the entrance to the bridge and crossed over the narrow road. It went over a sidewalk and a one-foot tall concrete barrier before crashing through a fence and plunging into the upper pond.

The sheriff’s Collision Investigation Unit will reconstruct exactly what happened. Such investigations often take six months to a year before findings are shared.

There was neither broken glass nor obvious skid marks, though tire tread marks could be seen on a metal plate attached to a fence post. The crash and the subsequent recovery of the truck wiped out several sections of four-foot high cyclone fence, leaving a 33-foot gap.

The pickup landed atop netting designed to protect the hatchery fish from birds. It could not bear the weight of the truck, which became submerged.

People stopped by the crash scene in small numbers Tuesday morning and afternoon. Many shook their heads trying to comprehend the physics of how the pickup ended up in the pond.

Mainly there was sadness for the lives lost, for their grieving families and for the tribes still reeling from tragedy last fall.

“This is just insane,” said Crystal Gobin, a tribal member. “It’s devastating. Our community isn’t even healed from the school shootings and then to lose four more…”

Tuesday’s loss comes nearly 10 months after the Oct. 24 shootings at Marysville Pilchuck High School. Five freshmen, including the shooter, died. One teen survived.

Tulalip and Marysville are tight-knit communities. It was apparent from social media on Tuesday that the young people involved in the crash numbered among their friends people directly affected by the shootings.

Several neighbors who live up the hill from the bridge said they slept through the crash. Some woke up hours later to learn that the road had been closed while the pickup was hoisted from the water.

“It’s tragic,” said Max Magee, who lives nearby. “I didn’t hear a thing.”

Holly Reed is an assistant manager at the Tulalip Hatchery. She said improvements recently were made to the roadway. The work, which included a new sidewalk, raised the bridge deck higher.

In doing so, it reduced the height of the concrete barrier separating the road from the ponds.

“The concrete used to be about waist high,” Reed said. “Now it’s only about a foot high.”

The upper pond is home to about 1 million coho salmon at certain times of the year. There are no fish there now. At times, the pond has no water at all, she said.

Drowning deaths after car accidents aren’t common in Snohomish County. In 2012, a local couple died after their car went off the road and into the Snohomish River. It took weeks for a recovery team to find them. In recent years several motorcyclists also have drowned after crashing into creeks and rivers, including a case near Index on Aug. 1 and one along Marsh Road in 2011.

Rhonda Gobin was among those from Tulalip who peered over the bridge and into the upper pond Tuesday.

She raised her hands skyward.

“I’m praising my people and the people that are in pain,” she said.

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

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