CUSTER, Wash. — First responders were first dispatched to the area of Birch Bay-Lynden Road and Rathbone Road about 8:50pm this evening, Sunday, January 9th, due to reports of a traffic incident. After they arrived, the dispatch was modified to an explosion according to the PulsePoint EMS dispatch log.
North Whatcom Fire & Rescue Fire (NWFR) Chief Jason Van der Veen told Whatcom News they responded to a car versus semi-truck crash and arrived to find the semi-truck and its trailer in flames and the passenger car about 300 feet away with its engine separated from the body of the car.
The driver of the car was extricated by NWFR personnel and transported to PeaceHealth St Joseph Medical Center under advanced life support protocol. Van der Veen said the semi-truck driver was able to get out under their own power and was not injured.
The semi-truck and trailer were totally destroyed. Van der Veen said the trailer contained cattle feed.
A bystander told Van der Veen they heard 1 large explosion and several smaller ones. A large debris field around the scene also indicated that had occurred.
Washington State Patrol Trooper (WSP) Jacob Kennett said troopers remained at the scene as of 10:30pm continuing their investigation the crash. Initial indications were the semi-truck had been traveling westbound on Birch Bay-Lynden Road and the car, later identified as a 2019 Toyota C-HR coupe, had been traveling eastbound when they collided. The passenger car driver had suffered possible broken bones.
According to a press memo issued by WSP, neither drugs nor alcohol were considered a factor in the crash and the Toyota was determined to have crossed the centerline, crashing head-on with the semi-truck.
The driver of the Toyota, identified as Akash Kumar, age 28 of Blaine, was charged with reckless driving by the WSP.
Approximate location of fire
It was reported from the scene that, as of 6am the next morning, Monday, the road was expected to remain closed until “around 8am or 9am” and traffic was being detoured around the crash site via Berthusen, Loomis Trail and Bob Hall Roads. This estimate was revised about 6:45am to “between 8am and 10am.”
About 9:40am, the WCSO announced the road had been reopened but drivers are to use caution due to gravel on the road.