Issaquah girl, 9, dies after Bellevue pileup
July 26, 2011
By Warren Kagarise
Rachel Beckwith, a 9-year-old Issaquah girl injured in a 14-vehicle pileup in Bellevue early last week, died July 23 from injuries sustained in the crash.
Rachel and a 2-year-old sister rode in a Lexus sedan driven by the girls’ mother, Samantha Paul, as a tractor-trailer jackknifed into a loaded logging truck and spurred the chain-reaction crash.
Medics transported seven people, including a handful of Issaquah residents, to area hospitals in the aftermath.
Only Rachel sustained life-threatening injuries, and responders rushed the girl to Harborview Medical Center.
Just before 8 a.m. July 20, as traffic slowed due to congestion near the Interstate 405 interchange at 133rd Avenue Southeast, authorities said a tractor-trailer jackknifed into a logging truck in the adjacent lane.
“For whatever reason, whether the semi truck was going too fast, wasn’t paying attention or a combination of the two, for the conditions, he didn’t seem to see that traffic had stopped until the last second,” said Sgt. Keith Trowbridge, a Washington State Patrol spokesman. “At that point, he tried to put the brakes on, but he jackknifed and went into the log truck.”
The impact dislodged the rear axle of the logging truck and sent the piece hurtling into traffic.
“The log truck continued, because it can’t stop that fast,” Trowbridge said. “All of the logs were still contained by the chains, but now they’re kind of fishtailing back and forth as the driver’s trying to get control of the rig. So he’s basically dragging this load of logs down the road.”
Cause remains under investigation
The logs, dragging on the roadway, struck other vehicles as the driver attempted to stop the rig. The tractor-trailer and the dislodged axle from the logging truck also struck other vehicles.
In addition to Paul, Rachel and 2-year-old Sienna, Issaquah residents involved in the crash included a 49-year-old man, a 37-year-old man and a 21-year-old woman.
The accident also involved a 39-year-old Sammamish man and a 49-year-old Sammamish man. Other motorists caught in the pileup came from Bellevue, Everett, North Bend and Snoqualmie.
Medics transported the tractor-trailer driver, a 60-year-old man, to Overlake Hospital Medical Center in Bellevue for treatment.
How to help
Rachel Beckwith asked people to donate to Charity:Water last month as a birthday gift. Now, people can donate as a tribute to the 9-year-girl fatally injured in a Bellevue crash July 20. Donate at the organization’s website, http://www.mycharitywater.org/p/ campaign?campaign_id=16396.
Or, donate to help Rachel’s family pay medical expenses. Donate at the Band of Brothers Northwest website, www.bobnw.org.
Troopers shut down most of the westbound interstate until about noon in order to clear the scene and investigate the accident. Crews called in another logging truck to retrieve the logs from the damaged rig.
The lane closures caused a massive backup during the morning commute. Traffic clogged the westbound lanes from the accident scene to the Front Street exit in Issaquah — a six-mile stretch of roadway.
The cause of the accident remains under investigation. The state patrol has not made any arrests related to the pileup.
Trowbridge said the state patrol inspected the trucks involved in the accident to determine whether mechanical factors contributed to the crash.
“Something like this, you can kind of come to some preliminary conclusions, but they want to rule out every possibility and check through everything,” he said.
Rachel inspires donations to charity
The teaching pastor at EastLake Community Church, Jeremy Johnson, said Paul suffered head injures in the early morning crash, but is expected to recover. Sienna escaped without major injuries.
But Rachel suffered severe head and spinal injuries in the crash.
“Such devastating news,” Johnson said in a video posted 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 dedicated to bringing clean drinking water to people in developing nations.
The organization estimates each dollar invested in improved water access and sanitation yields, on average, $12 in economic returns.
“Let me tell you a little bit about Rachel — she’s a champion,” Johnson continued in the video. “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.
In the days after the crash, church leaders asked Charity:Water to reactive Rachel’s fundraising page as a tribute and, so far, donors have contributed more than $200,000.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselback, a member at the Bothell-based church, posted a message on Twitter about Rachel and the fundraising effort to more than 70,000 followers.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.