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North Bend man dies from falling tree during weekend storm

North Bend resident and Washington State Department of Transportation employee Billy Rhynalds was killed by a falling tree during the weekend storm near Carnation.

Rhynalds, a 12-year veteran of the WSDOT maintenance team based in Preston, was killed at 9 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 16, on Highway 203 south of Carnation

Rhynalds, who usually worked the day shift, was called out to help close roads and clear water over the highway. When communications lines fell near Carnation, he went to the area to set up traffic cones. A cottonwood fell and hit him and his truck.

Rhynalds joined the department in 1998, late in his work life, after careers with the Washington National Guard and Weyerhaeuser. He held a variety of jobs with WDSOT maintenance and enjoyed working out of East King County.

“Rhynalds was well-liked, a hard worker willing to do every shift,” said Jim McBride, WSDOT Maintenance Superintendent and Rhynald’s supervisor. “He loved his job.”

Rhynalds has a large extended family in the area, including brothers, sisters, children and grandchildren. He wife, Betty, says he doted on his grandchildren. At 66, he was in a position to retire, but loved his job and was so well-liked by the rest of his crew, his family couldn’t talk him into it.

“He enjoyed the trees,” said McBride.

“Billy is the kind of selfless, dedicated employee we have at WSDOT,” said Paula Hammond, Secretary of Transportation. “They take the job of public service seriously. They want to be there to help the public get where they are going no matter what the conditions. It’s a sad day for us.”

WSDOT is providing peer trauma support for employees.

• A memorial service is planned for 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 23, at Snoqualmie Valley Alliance Church, 36017 S.E. Fish Hatchery Rd., Fall City.

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