Issaquah girl, 9, injured in 14-vehicle pileup, dies

July 23, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 9 p.m. July 23, 2011

Rachel Beckwith, a 9-year-old Issaquah girl injured in a 14-vehicle pileup in Bellevue, died Saturday afternoon from injuries sustained in the July 20 crash.

Rachel and a 2-year-old sister rode in a Lexus sedan as the girls’ mother, Samantha Paul, as a tractor-trailer jackknifed into a loaded logging truck and spurred the chain-reaction crash.

Medics rushed seven people, including a handful of Issaquah residents, to area hospitals in the aftermath. Only Rachel sustained life-threatening injuries.

The teaching pastor at at EastLake Community Church, Jeremy Johnson, said Paul suffered head injures in the early morning crash, but is expected to recover. The younger daughter escaped without major injuries.

But Rachel suffered severe head and spinal injuries in the crash.

“Such devastating news,” Johnson said in a post on the church’s blog. “I was able to be with the family several different times at Harborview this week.”

Rachel had been inspired by a church fundraiser for Charity:Water, a nonprofit organization formed to bring clean drinking water to people in developing nations.

“Let me tell you a little bit about Rachel — she’s a champion,” Johnson continued. “This girl turned 9 last month, and as she turned 9, she wanted to give her birthday to Charity:Water so she could make a difference around the world and bring water to people who didn’t have any.”

But Rachel missed the $300 target by $80. Undeterred, she planned to donate more next year.

Following the crash, church leaders asked Charity:Water to reactive Rachel’s fundraising page as a tribute. Then, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselback, a member at the Bothell-based church, tweeted about Rachel and the fundraising effort to more than 70,000 followers.

The effort has hauled in more than $27,000 so far.

The organization estimates each dollar invested in improved water access and sanitation yields, on average, $12 in economic returns.

EastLake Community Church also directs people to another site for donors to help offset Rachel’s medical expenses.

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