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Accident kills two Valley teens, injures third
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
"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.