In the April issue of the Key Peninsula News, a tragic car vs. ambulance collision at the intersection of State Route 302 and 118th Avenue NW was brought to the attention of not only area residents but also to those residing in the entire Western Washington region. Major news stations and daily newspapers covered the accident, in addition to the local publications.
In that collision, a local resident as well as Fire District 16 personnel were fortunate to escape with their lives. The accident was yet another in a series of near-deadly crashes involving alcohol at the infamous corner of SR-302 known widely as “the Corner of Death.”
Not too far south from this site, there are two signs that have served to remind drivers of the SR-302 corridor about the death of one of the Key Peninsula’s favorite sons, David Doolittle. The message is simple: “Please Don’t Drink and Drive. Sponsored by the David Doolittle family.”
One of the two signs was erected in May of 2004 almost at the spot where David Doolittle lost his life on May 4, 2000, in a horrific accident where he died instantly at the scene after being involved in an accident caused by a drunken driver. Paramedics who responded to the crash were friends of his, and David and his wife, Cindy, were well known and liked around the Key Peninsula area.
“Don’t drink and drive” is a popular phrase that has been taken for granted by so many drivers, young and old alike. After learning about this most recent and preventable tragedy from her mother, who is a resident of the Peninsula area, Tammy L. Richmond, of Fircrest, contacted the KP News with a message for drivers on SR-302 and anywhere else: “Please, slow down!”
Richmond was almost killed at the same intersection; but alcohol was not involved, just an inexperienced 16-year-old driver coming from Key Center and driving his vehicle too fast. He hit Richmond’s car when he tried to avoid hitting the car in front of him as it was stopped at the intersection. Richmond was coming from Purdy in the opposite direction when her car was hit head on, and she does not recall the impact at all.
Inspired by the dedication of the Fire District 16 emergency personnel in this most recent accident, who were also hurt and still willing to help others despite their own injuries, Richmond said, “I wanted to share my experience with the public and wanted to take the opportunity to thank the paramedics who had helped save my life that evening. I never had the opportunity to do so afterward.”
Richmond was also told there was a woman at the scene of the accident who held her hand and comforted her until the paramedics arrived. She was never able to find out this woman’s identity and would like to meet and thank her someday for her kindness.
Richmond spent one month at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, and was told she died twice on the way there, and that Fire District 16 paramedics had revived her. She was in a drug-induced coma for two weeks; her hip, pelvis and both legs were broken, in addition to her right wrist. She has had 17 surgeries to date, 13 of them to her legs. She walks with a cane and is permanently disabled.
It will be six years ago this July since the accident occurred. Richmond was only 31 years old at the time and the single mother of a son. Life has been a challenge at times since then.
She said, “It was a live-changing event, but one that I have tried to turn into a positive experience. I was thankful to have lived through it, despite all the pain.”
Richmond said that she “tries not to take anything for granted,” and she is thankful to be alive. Still a single parent, she said, “I enjoy working part-time at my son’s school and spending time with him.” The accident helped turn her life into a more spiritual existence, and she has found solace in her belief in Christianity. “I have a great respect for life, and I have learned how to turn the negative into the positive,” she said.
Richmond’s story may be one of many stories of changed lives due to collisions at that same intersection. According to statistics provided to the Key Peninsula News by the Washington State Department of Transportation, between July 1, 1993, and Dec. 31, 2006, the intersection of SR-302 and 118th Avenue NW had 75 total accidents, including 39 involving injuries (these numbers are for the intersection only, from mile post 11.56 to 11.60).
Richmond believes some action should be taken to make driving conditions better in that area, such as having the speed reduced to 35 mph and perhaps putting in a stop light at the intersection. In a recent report, the Pierce County – Key Peninsula Community Planning Board has also identified the intersection as one requiring improvements.
FD-16 Chief Tom Lique said, “After the traffic signal went up at the ‘T’ intersection at Elgin Clifton Road and SR-302, the intersection of 118th Avenue NW and SR-302 then became the intersection with the highest number of Fire Department 16 responses on the Key Peninsula.”