An infant and a child were killed in a Dec. 13, 2016 crash on Camano Island. (Washington State Patrol, file)

An infant and a child were killed in a Dec. 13, 2016 crash on Camano Island. (Washington State Patrol, file)

Island County to pay $16.5 million over fatal fiery crash

Tanya Canell suffered burns in crash that killed her two young girls, on a road known for icing over.

CAMANO ISLAND — A woman who lost two young daughters in a fiery crash has settled her part of a lawsuit against Island County for $16.5 million.

Tanya Canell was injured in the Dec. 13, 2016, crash that claimed the lives of her daughters, ages 5 months and 3.

The Camano Island woman was driving a minivan around 7:30 a.m. that day along a winding stretch of N. Sunrise Boulevard on Camano Island’s northeast corner. Her daughters were strapped into carseats in the back.

Her van slipped on an ice patch, slammed into the trees lining the shoulder and caught fire. Passersby were able to pull Canell, then 23, from the wreck. She suffered severe injuries, including broken bones and severe burns on her face and legs.

In 2018, Canell and her partner Phillip Gitchel were among a group who sued Island County. They alleged the “S” curve south of Terry’s Corner has an extensive history of crashes, while the county had long shown “negligence and indifference to the safety of motorists” along that stretch.

The case was brought by lawyers representing Canell and her family, and an Island County couple, Ric and Julie Shallow.

All claims relating to the injuries Canell and her family suffered in the 2016 crash were settled last week. Island County will pay $16 million to her family and $500,000 to Jeremy Bruce, a man who pulled Canell out of her vehicle.

The money will provide Canell and her family “long overdue” financial relief, according to their attorney, Michael Maxwell.

Canell, who was employed full-time until the crash, hasn’t been able to return to work because of her injuries, Maxwell said. Gitchel also had to leave his job in order to take care of Canell. Settlement money will allow the pair to buy a home to raise their son, 2, in and pay for Canell’s ongoing medical treatments, their attorney said.

The couple has asked for privacy, Maxwell said.

In 2017, Island County made changes along N. Sunrise Boulevard, lowering the speed limit through the S curve to 35 mph, repaving and installing a guard rail, the lawsuit said.

The county should have made those changes prior to December 2016, the suing parties asserted, adding that if it had, Canell, her children and Shallow would not have been harmed.

“This road was a hazard for years, and the county knew about it,” Maxwell said. “There was a long history of other vehicles going off the road. … Island County waited until injuries happened to take responsibility, and that is the definition of negligence.”

The legal complaint filed by Maxwell and other attorneys listed 17 other “adverse driving events” that occurred on N. Sunrise Boulevard between 2006 and 2016.

Ric and Julie Shallow have not resolved their part of the lawsuit.

Ric Shallow suffered head injuries and broken bones in a January 2016 crash on the S curve. His sedan hit an icy patch and crashed into a tree.

Island County denied all liability in the cases of both Canell and Shallow, said John Justice, one of two private attorneys hired to represent the county. A trial for the Shallows’ claims is scheduled for July 27.

Ellen Dennis: 425-339-3486;; Twitter: @reporterellen

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