Girl’s death in car crash stuns Granite Falls

GRANITE FALLS — The news spread in a flood of text messages on Tuesday night.

Shaylynn Wietersen, a bright-eyed girl known for her quick smile, was dead.

Carload by carload, friends began visiting the site of the fatal car wreck on Burn Road. Many brought symbols of their grief: A candle burning slowly in a glass jar, a teddy bear, dozens of roses.

Those who knew the Granite Falls High School sophomore said she was a rarity — the type of girl who moved easily among social strata, who was friends with softball players and pierced guitarists alike.

“Seeing her at school, she was always really happy,” Destiny Briones, 18, said. “She made people smile.”

Shaylynn, 16, was riding in a Jeep Cherokee that collided with a Toyota 4Runner about 7 a.m. Tuesday, Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Rebecca Hover said.

The Toyota was attempting to pass the Jeep on the two-lane road, Hover said. Investigators are trying to determine whether speed and improper passing contributed to the accident.

Shaylynn was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, but died later that day, Hover said.

Shaylynn’s brother, Brian Wietersen, 17, was driving the Jeep to school when the crash occurred a few miles from campus, officials said. He suffered minor injuries. A 17-year-old boy who was driving the Toyota reportedly suffered no injuries, Hover said.

School officials broke the news to students during first period on Wednesday, and also sent an e-mail and letter to parents.

“The hard part is in a small community they do know who she is,” said Granite Falls High School principal Eric Cahan. “They do know her brother. They do know her mother. They know they are a real nice family.”

Students created an orange and black fleece blanket — the school colors — for Shaylynn’s family. Dozens wrote condolence messages on the orange cloth.

Teachers also were shaken by the news.

Trudy Sullivan taught Shaylynn in a graphic design class. The teenager was creative and imaginative, proud to have recently won a class competition to design a flier for the high school food drive.

“She was just a very kind and compassionate person,” Sullivan said. “She was wonderful in all ways.”

Shaylynn transferred to Granite Falls from Santa Clara, Calif., in the seventh grade. She played softball her freshman year and was dating the guitarist of a local alternative rock band.

For the next several days, the school district plans to have staff members and mental health professionals available to work with students at the high school and at Crossroads Alternative High School, where Shaylynn also had friends, district spokeswoman Kathy Grant said.

A memorial service is in the works, but information may not be available for a few days, Grant said.

Friends already are memorializing Shaylynn.

Shortly after school on Wednesday, several groups stopped by the Burn Road crash site. Some cried. Others left bouquets. A few just stood quietly in the bitter cold.

Shaylynn made an impression on all of them, including Kalee McFall.

Kalee, 18, met Shaylynn just three weeks ago, right after Kalee’s own birthday. The two bonded immediately.

“She was just an amazing person,” Kalee said. “She was and will always be the best birthday present I’ve ever gotten.”

Andy Rathbun: 425-339-3455, arathbun@heraldnet.com.

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