Driver drives off Blaine pier, injures child

Published on Sun, Apr 27, 2014 by Brandy Kiger Shreve

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Updated (4/28/14 2:27 p.m): Divers from the Whatcom County Search and Rescue team have located the vehicle that went off the end of the Port of Bellingham pier in Blaine last night, and the registered owner of that vehicle has been identified.

While no one was in the vehicle when it was located, a short time later Blaine Police were contacted by RCMP who had located the body of a man on the shoreline in British Columbia. Identification found in the clothing matches that of the vehicle owner.  

Arrangements to salvage the vehicle are pending. Release of additional information is being withheld pending notification of the next of kin.   

At approximately 7:15 p.m., witnesses say a driver sped down Marine Drive in Blaine, broke through the city of Blaine barricades and drove off the Blaine pier, injuring a 7-year-old boy in the process.

The child, who had been playing on the pier with his father and brother when the incident occurred. Blaine police chief Mike Haslip said that it was unclear as to whether or not the child was grazed by the car or hit by debris as the car hurtled past, but that the boy was knocked backwards. He was transported to St. Joseph's Hospital with a leg injury. 

It did not appear that the car made any attempt to stop before colliding with the pier railing, said Blaine police officer Jonn Landis, as there were no skid marks indicating a change of heart before the driver plunged into the bay.   

Witnesses were unable to clearly identify the make and model of the car, since it was going so fast. "We think it was a small car," Haslip said. "But we've had several different descriptions. Those where were onsite said they estimated it was going 80 to 90 miles per hour." 

No one surfaced after the car entered the water, so it is unlikely there are any survivors. Police hope that they will be able to begin identifying the driver when divers locate the car and are able to determine the license plate number, but do not know how many people were in the car, or why the driver chose to drive off the pier.

Whatcom County Sheriff's deputies, Blaine police and the U.S. Coast Guard were onsite, with Coast Guard helicopters circling the area to monitor the situation immediately after the incident. Search and Rescue divers arrived at around 9 p.m., and began the arduous task of trying to locate the sunken car, as a lower tide made visibility close to nil.
"You can only see about this far in front of your face," said dive team member Chris Hemingson, holding his hand a foot from his face. "It's dark, and it's murky, and as the tide drags out, it just makes the conditions worse." The harbor is close to 50 feet deep in that part of the channel. 

"It may take 10 minutes to find the car or it might take 40," said Hemingson, whose team was struggling against strong currents in their search. "They'll have about an hour on one tank of air before they have to come back up."

Hemingson was part of the dive crew when a similar incident occurred in 2006. "It took us about 10 minutes to find it that time," he said. "There was a pretty clear trail of debris to follow." 

The pier will be closed indefinitely to both pedestrian and vehicular traffic while the Blaine police department conducts their investigation and repairs are made to the railing destroyed in the collision. 




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