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Accident kills two Valley teens, injures third

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SNOQUALMIE — Two 16-year-old girls were killed and

a third was injured after the vehicle they were riding in veered

off State Route 202 shortly before 10:20 p.m. Jan. 31 and hit a tree.

The girls, all three Mount Si High School students, were

traveling westbound in a light-blue1989 Chevrolet

Suburban on SR 202. According to law-enforcement

personnel, about half a mile from Snoqualmie Falls, the

vehicle swerved to the left, then ran

approximately 15 feet down the side of the highway and

crashed into a tree.

Just hours before, the girls had attended a youth-group service at New

Life Christian Center in Snoqualmie.

Driver Abby Cunningham and front-seat passenger Carly

Stauch were pronounced dead when rescue workers arrived.

Back-seat passenger Elaine Smith, also 16, survived the accident and was

airlifted to Harborview Medical Center. She was released from

the hospital Feb. 1, in time to attend a private memorial service held

in North Bend for Cunningham and Stauch, which was attended

by about 300 people. Smith suffered facial scrapes in the accident,

a hospital spokesperson said.

All three were wearing seatbelts at the time of the

accident, and police said neither road conditions, other

vehicles, nor alcohol or drugs were a factor.

"This is a tragedy that our entire community is going to

face, and we are going to grieve together. Our thoughts go out

to the families and the closest friends of the girls," said

Mount Si Principal George Ilgenfritz.

"They were both just absolutely wonderful girls with a

lot of friends, and they were active with our school and

community," he added. Cunningham and Stauch were juniors at Mount

Si, and Smith is a sophomore.

Upon arriving at the accident scene, tow-truck drivers

used cables to ease the vehicle to the ground, as the girls were still

inside. A firefighter with the Bellevue Medic One stayed

with Smith while other rescue personnel worked carefully to free

her from the crushed Suburban. Once the vehicle was pulled back

on the road, emergency crews used two sets of Jaws of Life to

pry Smith from the back seat.

Washington State Patrol Trooper Monica Hunter said

inexperience and speed were most likely a factor in the accident,

but she explained that age was not necessarily a main cause.

"This happens to people that have been driving for 20

years," she said.

Since Jan. 31, high-school students and community

members have covered the scene of the accident with flowers, candles

and balloons in memory of Cunningham and Stauch.

Memorial services were held at Mount Si High School on Saturday

for Stauch, and on Sunday for Cunningham.

"Abby was one of the most devoted Christian people,"

said Maggie Flagg, a friend of Cunningham's who visited

the crash site last week. "She always smiled. She didn't deserve to

die. She had such a good heart and was an amazing person."

Cunningham was known for her devotion to church and

frequently brought friends to youth group with her. Friends

knew Stauch for her involvement in sports.

"Carly played soccer and tennis; I knew her when we

were younger," said Mount Si student Lydia Anderson. "This is

becoming routine," she added, alluding to other youths who have died

in recent years.

In 1999, sisters Amanda Baldwin, 15, and Salome

Holly, 18, were murdered by their stepfather, Dayva Cross, and in

1998, David Szczepanik, 18, died in a car accident and

Dane Rempfer,15, was killed in a hit-and-run accident.

"I just want it to stop," said Erica Tawney. She said the

high school has become adept at helping students deal with

a classmate's death.

Several area school counselors, church and

youth-group members went to Mount Si the day after the accident to help

students cope.

"The school is just doing great right now," Ilgenfritz said,

explaining how students are supporting each other. "Their

grieving has been really appropriate and mature. They're writing

journals in writing classes, they've put up cards, and I'm just proud

of the kids.

Donation accounts have been set up for Cunningham

and Stauch at Sno-Falls Credit Union and Bank of America, and

remembrances in Cunningham's name can also be made to Camp

Gilead, 30919 N.E. Carnation Road, Carnation, WA 98014 or to the

New Life Christian Center, 8470 Falls Ave., Snoqualmie, WA

98065. Friends are invited to share memories of the girls on an online

guest book at www.flintofts.com.

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