MARYSVILLE — At the end of her nine-hour shift at a gas station, Amanda Perry needed a bite. One of the few places slinging burgers at 2 a.m. is the Quil Ceda Creek Casino in Marysville. The BLTs there are so good, Perry said, that she once paid $68 for an Uber ride to satisfy a craving.
Perry, 35, a new resident of Lynnwood, hopped into a blue GMC Jimmy with a couple of friends in the early morning hours Oct. 14. They drove north through Everett. The car sputtered to a stop, out of gas, on the I-5 exit to Fourth Street, about a half-mile from the casino.
Perry got out to push on the passenger side. She yelled over to her friend by the driver’s door to get back in the darn car because it was too darn dangerous (except she used stronger language).
The northbound exit slopes downward, with three lanes and a skinny shoulder bordered by a guard rail. It was dark. But Perry thought they’d reached a safe spot, with the hazard lights flashing and the car as far to the right as possible.
She had no warning at 2:15 a.m., when the 2018 Kia Forte slammed into the GMC. There’s no delicate way to say what happened to Perry. She was cut open. She remembers all of it.
“It would’ve been better if she was knocked out,”said her sister, Shawntae Barnett, of Longview. “She almost got thrown over. She had to grab the guard rail to stop her momentum. You go underneath a car, only to get thrown over the side of a barrier.”
Bones broke in her back. One side of her body turned into a giant bruise, from the shoulder down. Stitches left Perry’s stomach “like one big railroad track,” she said. She has nightmares.
Perry moved north of Seattle two years ago, to escape a cycle of alcohol and drug abuse. Addiction runs in her family, she said. She worked long nights at a Jacksons mini-mart in south Snohomish County. In October, she landed an apartment in Lynnwood for $1,300 a month, a lot for her, but it was a place where she could live with her two older girls.
“So she’s just been doing wonderful,” said Perry’s mom, Kim Crockford. “And then for something like this to happen — I understand that it happens, but it shouldn’t happen.”
Eight days before the crash, at 4 a.m. Oct. 6, the driver of the black Kia Forte had been arrested for investigation of DUI, on I-5 near Lynnwood. He posted $10,000 bond the next night.
A week later, the driver, 27, crashed into the GMC. He had a suspended license. This time, his blood-alcohol was 0.00. Troopers suspected him of being impaired by painkillers and a stimulant. His blood was drawn for testing. The man was booked into jail for investigation of vehicular assault. A judge set bail at $75,000. He was out in a day.
On her third afternoon in a hospital, Perry struggled to speak. Her mom asked what she’d say to the driver who hit her.
“I’d say nothing to him,” Perry replied. “He needs to figure it out. He’s going to hurt someone.”
“He just did,” her sister, Barnett, said.
“He’s going to kill someone,” Perry said. “He should really get …”
“Treatment,” her sister said, finishing the sentence for her.
Barnett, a recovering addict, used heroin and methamphetamine for about four years. She nearly died twice in front of her mother from overdoses. She has been clean for a year, she said.
“Listen,” Barnett said. “When I was in treatment, I was with a lot of multiple offender DUIs. Their last chance, they run to treatment, and they don’t go to prison. Regardless, if it cleans them up, whatever.”
“You can’t force a person to do it, though,” Perry said. “Him standing in front of me, seeing how much pain I’m in, probably isn’t going to make him get clean either. He’s got to do it on his own. I’m just going to be grateful.”
“You’re alive,” Barnett said.
Perry let that thought sink in for a moment.
“Yeah,” she said.
Help at the scene
That morning on the roadside, Perry begged people to bring her phone to her, so she could call her kids. She thought she’d die. A Canadian woman stopped her car, rushed out and tried to comfort her.
“She wanted me to stay still,” Perry said. “She wanted me to tell her about things. She wanted to keep my eyes open, because I just wanted to close my eyes.”
Others at the scene seemed to freeze up, keeping their distance from her, she said. Troopers noted the driver of the Kia was pacing nearby.
At the hospital, Perry wondered if she’d dreamed the Good Samaritan. She had the same name, Madison, as her oldest girl. State troopers eventually tracked down the woman so Perry could thank her.
Perry has undergone five surgeries at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. Weeks into her recovery, she’s learning to take steps again.
“I can even walk some without the walker,” she said last week. “I can cross my legs. … I’m going to get a full recovery, except for the scars.”
Some good has come from her brush with death, Perry said. Frayed family ties have mended. Friends set up a fundraiser. She found people who care about her, in places she didn’t know about.
At age 5, Perry started going to a camp for girls who were abused. Word got out about the crash among old camp buddies. They called hospitals around the region until they found Perry. They’ve kept her company in Everett, along with her mother, sister and daughters.
Perry has a new way of looking at life, she said. She doesn’t want to waste it. She’s in less pain now, too, and it’s easier to talk.
“Yeah, and I’m not as scared,” she said. “I’m not as scared.”
Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @snocaleb.