News

Injured teen might have been racing

By ERICA JAHN

Staff writer

Police believe racing led to a car crash in Federal Way Wednesday evening that sent a second teenager in less than a week to the reginal trauma center with serious injuries.

An 18-year-old male was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle with possible head and internal injuries following the crash. He was listed in stable condition Thursday morning.

According to statements witnesses made to police, two vehicles — an unidentified car and a white Chevrolet Beretta carrying three males — were racing on South 320th Street when the driver of the Beretta lost control at about Eighth Avenue South and collided with a third vehicle, a full-size Ford pickup.

The injured teen was a back-seat passenger in the Beretta. The driver and front-seat passenger were not injured. The driver of the Ford also was uninjured, authorities said.

The driver of the car reportedly racing the Beretta left the scene. Federal Way Police don’t know if the occupants of the two vehicles knew each other.

“I think this was just a couple of people in line at a red light with open road in front of them,” said officer Kurt Schwan, police spokesman.

When Federal Way Fire Department medics arrived, the injured teenager, who was the only one not wearing a seat belt, complained of abdominal pain, pain breathing in and head pain. He had some cuts and his torso was swollen, department spokeswoman Debbie Goetz said.

Police closed South 320th for several hours Wednesday to investigate the crash. Schwan said police have finished their investigation.

The two collisions in the past week have been blamed on speed, but they might also be attributable to the end of summer, as people are gearing up to go back to school, said firefighter Kevin Crossen.

Crossen is one of several firefighters who participate in a three-year-old program called Think Again, in which they go into high schools to make young drivers aware of what happens in a car crash.

Crossen said many students are surprised to learn the average speed of a fatality collision. The class clowns suggest 20 miles per hour and the more thoughtful students say 100, Crossen said, but most are shocked to hear the national average is 35.

The combined impact of two cars traveling 35 miles an hour is like hitting a brick wall going 70, he noted.

People 16 to 19 years old are twice as likely to die in a car crash than 40-year-olds, and the likelihood of a crash increases 100 percent for each additional teenager in the car. That means a car filled with four teens is four times more likely to crash than a car carrying only a driver, Crossen said. Causes might be showing off or simply failing to pay attention, he said.

Impact causes injuries to vehicle occupants when the energy from the collision travels through their bodies. Even in minor accidents, medics frequently treat broken wrists because the driver locks up on the steering wheel, he said. Head trauma is more common in serious car crashes because the head isn’t restrained, even if the person is wearing a seatbelt.

Wednesday night’s crash came just three days after another Federal Way teenager, Luke Johnson, was involved in a fatal car crash on South 336th Street. Police said speed was a factor in the Sunday collision, as well. Johnson died Monday at Harborview.

Federal Way Police responded to three fatality car crashes in 2000 and three in 2001. The collision last Sunday was the first fatality crash in the city this year.

A memorial was held for Johnson Thursday at Brooklake Community Church in Federal Way.

Staff writer Erica Jahn can be reached at 925-5565 and ejahn@fedwaymirror.com

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