GRANITE FALLS — It would be hard to know just how many people passed the car without realizing it was there.
Three people — two women and a man — died overnight when a small red passenger vehicle left the Mountain Loop Highway around Canyon Drive, went down an embankment and crashed into a tree east of Granite Falls.
Snohomish County Fire District 17 based in Granite Falls was called to the crash site at 7:53 a.m. and arrived six minutes later. The medical team quickly determined that all three people inside the car had died, Chief Jim Haverfield said.
“There was significant damage to the vehicle,” he said.
The car was an older-model Toyota Tercel.
Someone living in the area heard a sound that could have been the crash Thursday night but didn’t discover the vehicle until Friday morning when he saw the car in the brush while taking his child to the school bus stop, officials said.
That person heard something that sounded like a shotgun blast going off at 9:30 p.m., but it is unknown if that was the sound of the crash, Haverfield said.
The vehicle was found in a ditch at the base of a tree, Snohomish County sheriff’s Lt. Rodney Rochon said. All three people inside the car are believed to have died instantly.
The ages, hometowns and identities of the victims were not released.
The mother of one of the victims went to the crash scene and was consoled by officers when the death of her daughter was confirmed. The victim had not shown up to her job on Friday morning, prompting concern.
The sheriff’s office Collision Investigation Unit will try to determine the circumstances of the crash.
Based on initial observations, it appears the car was southbound on the Mountain Loop Highway when it drifted onto the shoulder. The driver likely over-corrected and crossed the double yellow line and went into the ditch on the east side of the road, Rochon said.
There were no signs of skid marks on the road. The car went through metal wire fencing and struck a cedar tree, roof first.
The Snohomish County Medical Examiner will determine the cause and manner of death. Without survivors or witnesses, it will take time to complete the accident investigation.
“It is all going to boil down to what the road tells us, what the car tells us” and the mathematical calculations that will be made by collision-investigation detectives, Rochon said.
It took several hours before a specially-equipped tow truck was able to lift the crumpled car from the ditch. It was then up to firefighters to use equipment to cut into the car to reach the victims.
The crash occurred on a stretch of the two-lane rural highway where homes are spread far apart, Haverfield said.
He estimated that the car was down an embankment 12 to 15 feet and could not be seen from the road.
Ian Terry contributed to this story. Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, email@example.com.