Missing Maple Falls man dies in crash near Washington Pass
A 24-year-old Maple Falls man who had been missing for six days was found dead on July 2 off North Cascades Highway, 3 miles west of Washington Pass.
A Washington State Patrol trooper saw something amiss at a bend in the highway and discovered a 1999 Jeep Cherokee and its driver, Mike J. Niegowski, 300 feet down a steep slope. Niegowski had been driving west on the highway when he lost control at a sharp curve to the right.
Okanogan County Search and Rescue’s high-angle rope team responded to help the State Patrol and the towing company access the vehicle. The team was on the scene for six hours, said Rick Balam, search and rescue coordinator for the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office.
The crash occurred on a 5-mile stretch of Highway 20 in Chelan County, between Okanogan and Skagit counties.
Blood analysis would determine whether alcohol may have contributed to the crash, Trooper John Bryant said.
Niegowski’s family and friends issued a statement July 4 on Facebook:
“Wednesday evening (June 26), Mike lost control of his Jeep and drove off the road on Highway 20, near Mazama. We believe this to be an accident as there were skid marks and he was wearing a seatbelt.
“We appreciate all your kind words, thoughts, and prayers!
“Please refrain from asking for more details or speculations as this is an extremely hard time for all of us!
“We love you all for caring about Mike, as well as us, his family and friends.”
A memorial service was scheduled for Tuesday (July 9) in Mount Vernon.
Niegowski was the fourth person to die in a vehicle crash on Highway 20, between Rainy Pass and Loup Loup Pass, since 2013. In August 2015, a 22-year-old from Lynden missed the same curve west of Washington Pass and died after the vehicle fell down the bank.