‘Absolute Miracle she’s Alive’ after falling tree crushes Snoqualmie woman’s car on I-90

Thanksgiving has a whole new meaning to one local young woman. One week ago it was just a few inches that saved her life – and spared her family from tragedy.

On November 13th Snoqualmie resident and 2014 Mount Si graduate Katelyn Hoydal was driving home from work two hours early, trying to beat the bad weather. She was traveling along eastbound I-90 during last Monday’s rain and wind storm when her SUV was hit by falling tree near milepost 13.

Around 6PM she merged onto I-90 from 405 and was starting to speed up when she heard the sound. When she woke up a few seconds later, the roof of her car was buckled and was sitting where the windshield should be. A tree had come through the windshield and was laying across the passenger seat – about six inches from her head. She was trapped, with her right leg pinned under the steering wheel.

Katelyn said, “I’d never been so scared as I was when I opened my eyes….I prayed…I didn’t want to die.”

Luckily no other vehicles collided with her car after the falling tree brought the SUV to a halt in the second right lane of peak commute traffic.

It was windy, pouring rain and dark. Katelyn could wiggle her toes – a good sign – but thought for sure her femur was broken as she was in excruciating pain.

Then she saw a flashlight. Good samaritans had pulled over to help. As fate would have it, she looked up to see a familiar face – it was her older sister’s high school friend, Aaron Moetului. Katelyn said he talked to her, calmed her down, and even called her parents.

She now calls Aaron her hero. But there were other guardian angels.

Katelyn estimates about five other men also helped, even though it was windy and more trees could have come down. They tried to get the tree off of her car and warmed her with their jackets.

Within minutes a Washington State Patrol Trooper and Bellevue Firefighters were on scene. Katelyn said the first responders were truly amazing.

Firefighters used the ‘jaws of life’ to get her out of the car. The EMT’s started treatment on her leg that had been crushed under the steering wheel. They got her into an ambulance and transported quickly to Overlake Medical Center, even staying with her until the emergency room CT scan was complete.

Those scans revealed that miraculously Katelyn had not broken any bones. She did suffer whiplash, a bad concussion, trauma crush injuries to muscles and severe swelling – the worst to the thigh that had been pinned. She’s also got cuts and bumps on her head and some glass still embedded in her hand.

Remarkably, Katelyn only spent two nights in the hospital, but still has a long road to a full recovery. One week after the accident and her right thigh is still numb due to severe tissue and nerve damage. She also has other internal bruising. A wheelchair is her mode of transportation. Crutches won’t be an option until swelling subsides in her hand and that embedded glass can be removed. Doctors say it could take six weeks to get back to normal life.

She’s happy to be home, though, with her family and her dog – and in her own bed. Nights have been the hardest due to a very sore neck, the painful injured leg… and the rain and wind bring up bad memories, causing anxiety.

Katelyn knows it’s a miracle she survived and she’s very grateful. Grateful Aaron decided not to to go to the gym after work and was driving by her accident scene. Grateful for the first responders and good samaritans. More than anything, though, Katelyn is grateful that she gets to be home this Thanksgiving with her family.

Mom Kris agreed and said, “It’s an absolute miracle she’s alive.”  The Hoydal family will be counting their blessings this Thanksgiving.


Firefighters working to get Katelyn out of her car on 11/13/17 after a tree fell on the roof. Photo: Bellevue Fire Department.


Firefighters helping Katelyn on 11/13/17 after a falling tree trapped her inside her vehicle. Photo: Bellevue Fire Dept.

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