By Marcy Stamper
Two men died and a third was seriously injured in a head-on collision on Highway 153 near the town of Methow on Thursday (July 6). Kenneth Fennix, age 25, of Zillah, and Steve Osburn, age 60, of Clarkston, were pronounced dead at the scene, according to a report by the Washington State Patrol.
The crash occurred after the northbound 2009 International delivery box truck, driven by Fennix, crossed the center line, colliding with a 2009 Kenworth semi-tractor/trailer driven by Osburn, who was heading south, according to the report.
Richard Hayland, age 34, the sole passenger in the box truck, was transported to Three Rivers Hospital in Brewster with a large leg laceration, according to Trooper Camron Iverson with the State Patrol. Hayland was released in good condition by Monday (June 10), according to a hospital spokesperson, who could provide no further details.
All three were wearing seat belts and there was no evidence of alcohol or drugs, according to the report. As a routine procedure, Okanogan County Coroner Dave Rodriguez has submitted blood samples to the toxicology lab. Results will take several weeks, he said.
Hayland, the injured passenger, reportedly told state troopers that a bee had flown into the box truck just before the accident. Witnesses interviewed after the crash said the driver appeared to be swatting at the bee, causing him to abruptly cross the center line, according to Iverson.
The crash closed Highway 153 for seven hours, from noon to 7 p.m., although a detour was available via Burma Road using a pilot car. After the crash, the box truck was blocking both lanes, and the dump truck was off the roadway, according to the report.
Both drivers were on the job — the box truck was a delivery truck and the semi-tractor hauls gravel — but both trucks were empty at the time of the crash, said Rodriguez. Both trucks were totaled.
The collision occurred on a curve that is a slight downhill for southbound traffic, so Osburn would not have seen the box truck until he rounded the curve, said Rodriguez. With a cut bank on the west and a guardrail on the east side of the roadway, there was no way to avoid an oncoming vehicle, said Rodriguez.
The report released by the state patrol is still preliminary. The final report is expected within the week, said Iverson. The cause of the accident is under investigation.