Sultan honors teen’s memory

SULTAN – More than a week has passed since a young life was lost in an accident. Flowers have wilted at a makeshift memorial near a railroad crossing. Candles have burned down amid the flowers.

It’s not that people overcame or forgot their loss. It’s just that they have lived with the pain and sorrow.

They came together on Monday evening to begin healing. About 400 people gathered at Sultan High School to remember and celebrate the life of Krystinia McCarty, 16, who died when a train struck a car on the tracks at an uncontrolled crossing near Sixth Street in town.

Krystinia was a passenger in the car. Her friend Jeff Hales, 18, was the driver and survived the collision. Hales attended the service on Monday, sitting in a wheelchair.

Fresh flowers were delivered to the school’s commons. The size of the crowd meant a lot to Krystinia’s family.

“It’s pretty impressive that all of you are here to pay tribute to Krystinia. Thank you,” said Paul McCarty, her great uncle.

Krystinia dedicated her life to serving others, McCarty said. She was an honor-roll sophomore who had been elected junior-class vice president.

The death of the bright young girl challenges everyone, McCarty said. That’s why people need to pray not only for her and her family, but also for each other.

“We pray, or shall I recommend we pray, for faith and hope,” he said.

Krystinia loved learning and had many goals to pursue, her sister Pamelia Mann said.

“It fills me with sorrow to know that she will never have a chance to go to college,” Mann said.

Her young sister was her best friend and touched many people’s lives, Mann said.

“My heart will forever be broken,” she said.

Some in the crowd wept. Some leaned on each other. Some kept their eyes closed.

Mayor Ben Tolson, who led the memorial service, said to the crowd that it’s natural to cry and feel sad.

There’s no easy answer about why the tragedy occurred, Tolson said. But as Krystinia demonstrated, people should let their lives to have no regrets, he said.

“No one can predict the future,” Tolson said. “That’s why it’s important to let people know how much you care about them.”

Krystinia’s death has shaken the community, which lost another friend, Genevieve Jelinek, a month ago, said Dr. Mark Raney, a physician at Sky Valley Family Medicine in Sultan. Jelinek died in a May 2 crossover crash on U.S. 2.

Krystinia was a manager for the high school’s boys soccer team, said Raney, the team’s head coach. She was one of the people whom others looked to for inspiration, he said.

“Krystinia led by example,” he said. “She would have encouraged us to stick together. And I believe that she’s doing so now.”

At the end of an hour-long service, Tolson told the crowd that officials are considering creating a permanent memorial marker near the accident site. He asked people to deliver their flowers to Krystinia’s gravesite in town.

As people started filing out, Hales stayed for a while. He has a long way to heal his body and heart, Raney said.

“Jeff is a kind of kid who carries this forever,” Raney said.

Friends walked up to Hales and put their arms around his shoulders.

Reporter Yoshiaki Nohara: 425-339-3029 or

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