A man’s plunge from a moving SUV on a highway north of Marysville early Saturday led to a three-vehicle collision that culminated in critical injuries for him and the arrest of his teenage niece on suspicion of driving while high on pot, the Washington State Patrol reported today.
Troopers responded to the chain-reaction wreck on Highway 9 near Arlington about 12:37 a.m. Eleven family members had crowded into a Chevrolet Tahoe after Fourth of July celebrations.
With her aunt and uncle apparently arguing and too intoxicated to drive, troopers say, a 16-year-old girl got behind the wheel of the Tahoe, which was loaded with as many as eight other children, including a 1-year-old.
“There were more people in the car than there were seats,” Trooper Mark Francis said Saturday.
Sometime during the drive, the uncle — a 27-year-old Marysville man — opened the right front passenger door and jumped out of the vehicle, which was traveling about 55 miles per hour, Francis said.
After he jumped, his niece slammed on the brakes and the vehicle came to a stop. Meanwhile, a 33-year-old woman driving with two passengers in a Chevrolet Blazer behind the Tahoe swerved to avoid hitting the man in the road, then slammed her vehicle into the Tahoe.
A third vehicle — a Ford Mustang driven by a 17-year-old boy and carrying three passengers — then also hit the Tahoe.
In all, two people suffered injuries in a wreck involving 18 people and three vehicles.
The uncle was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center with life-threatening head injuries suffered when he landed on the highway asphalt, Francis said. He was listed in critical condition in the intensive-care unit as of 6:15 p.m., a hospital nursing supervisor said.
A 66-year-old woman who was a passenger in the second car was taken to an Arlington hospital with a broken femur. No one else was hurt.
Troopers arrested the 16-year-old driver on suspicion of driving under the influence of marijuana.
Troopers continue to investigate, Francis said, adding that others involved in the incident might face charges.