Highway 203 wreck claims life

By KARL SCHWEIZER

Herald Writer

MONROE — A 22-year-old Sultan man died Friday when his small pickup collided head-on with a semi-truck loaded with construction equipment on Highway 203 about a mile south of Monroe.

A male passenger in the pickup was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, said Trooper Lance Ramsay of the Washington State Patrol. The semi-truck driver, Wayne D. Gilbert, 50, of Snohomish, was not injured.

The victim was identified as Obed T. Cushing, of Sultan. His passenger, Nathan J. Hess, 23, of Monroe, was in serious condition at Harborview.

The accident, which occurred about 12:30 p.m. at 17819 Highway 203, shut down a half-mile stretch of the highway between the Skykomish River and Tualco Road for three hours as investigators from the State Patrol and the state Department of Transportation analyzed the scene.

The southbound pickup collided with the northbound semi in the northbound lane, Ramsay said. It isn’t known why the pickup ended up in the other lane, Ramsay said.

The pickup rode up the side of the semi and broke apart when it struck the excavator being towed behind the truck, said Shawn Welcome, owner of the excavator.

Welcome, who hired the truck driver to move the equipment, estimated the combined weight of the truck and excavator at more than 50 tons.

The impact threw the pickup onto the shoulder.

It is the second fatal accident to occur on the highway in the past few weeks, Ramsay said.

Three people were killed Nov. 5 in a head-on collision on Highway 203 near Cherry Valley Road, north of Duvall.

In Friday’s crash, the trucks would have collided at a combined speed of 110 mph, if both were going the 55 mph speed limit, Ramsay said.

Kurt Biderbost said he was sitting in the office of nearby Kurt’s Produce when Friday’s accident occurred. Biderbost heard a bang and looked outside to see a wrecked yellow pickup on the shoulder of the highway. He called 911 before checking on the occupants.

The truck came to rest in front of John Sjostrom’s five-acre farm. Sjostrom, who got home after the accident, said the wreck, though serious, was merely the latest in a series of accidents along the highway near his house.

"We hear brakes a lot," Sjostrom said. "People don’t pay attention. They come out of Monroe heading like a bat out of hell down the road to Duvall."

Several near-accidents have occurred as drivers have tried to turn off into Kurt’s Produce across the street and have been nearly struck by other drivers who weren’t paying attention, Sjostrom said.

Biderbost complained of speeding and tailgating drivers.

"Can I vent about this stretch of road? There’s trucks that go through here at God-knows-what speed and tailgating. And it’s not just the truckers, it’s everybody. You wonder how they could ever stop in a million years," he said.

Drivers also honk and get angry when people try to turn left into his produce stand, he said.

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