Hearing the first-hand accounts of the near-miss incident, it plays out almost like the scene of a movie. It had all the elements: heavy, sudden snow, sliding vehicles, a steep hill and moms whose gut instincts were to protect kids – some not even their own children.
But it wasn’t scripted. It happened on a Snoqualmie side street near Timber Ridge Elementary on Monday, December 5, 2016.
Snoqualmie resident Jennifer Younes said she’s certain had she not jumped off a sidewalk, over a retaining wall and down into an empty lot, she and the two children with her would’ve been crushed by large dump truck.
It all started with a brief, heavy snowfall that Monday morning. Jennifer and her neighbor Monika Smith were walking their kids from the Eagle Pointe neighborhood of Snoqualmie Ridge to Timber Ridge Elementary – something they do most days.
When they arrived at the curvy, steep hill that leads down to the school, they noticed a vehicle had slid in the snow – up and onto the curb along the hilly portion. Simultaneously, an appliance delivery truck was attempting to go up the hill, but couldn’t make it due to the snow and ice. It parked partially up the hill and near their location.
As they started walking down the hill, and while cautiously watching as the nearby car attempt to right itself, they stopped and called to five students walking to school to stay near them in case the car struggled and slid again. Jennifer said they didn’t want to continue until they were certain the vehicle wouldn’t slide toward them on the hill. Monika said this when another driver near the top of the hill, also watching the same car and seeing its struggle in the snow, decided to stay safely at the top. The driver parked her car and exited to walk three children down the hill to school.
According to Monika and Jennifer, this is when it all began. Seemingly out of nowhere a dump truck hauling a flat bed trailer started to go down the hill and began to slide. It hit the woman’s recently parked car, making a loud crash and sending it about a block down the hill. Monika said that initial collision appeared to have propelled the truck faster down the hill toward their location on the opposite side of the street.
That was when she remembers hearing Jennifer scream for her to run. She said instinct kicked in and she instructed the kids to turn and run as fast as they could. They turned left down Satterlee Street to get off the hill. Behind her Jennifer could not make it to the cross street fast enough. – so said she grabbed her son and another girl, jumped off the sidewalk and down into that empty lot.
When the dump truck came to a stop and things became silent, Jennifer said she looked over the retaining wall and saw the dump truck had come to a rest in the exact spot they had stood just seconds earlier. Monika said during the slide the dump truck also struck the parked appliance delivery truck, whose driver and passenger she said jumped from the cab and rushed toward her group in an attempt to help. She said those occupants later told her they feared the dump truck was going to roll and they wanted to make sure she and the kids would get out far enough out-of-the-way.
The woman and children who parked their car near the top of the hill escaped uninjured – except for some minor scratches from a falling tree that the dump truck also hit during its slide. Jennifer went to the doctor a couple of days later due to lingering back pain. Her son banged his knee during the jump and the little girl complained of some back pain, but both were otherwise fine.
According to the Snoqualmie Valley School District, the truck was on its way to Timber Ridge ES – a subcontractor performing work at the recently-opened school. Asst. Superintendent Ryan Stoke said via email, “All work at TRES should be substantially complete as of Jan 1st. [The] District doesn’t anticipate any more large equipment coming to the site when school resumes.”
Both Monika and Jennifer were very shaken by the incident that they described as happening so fast- and probably only lasting seconds. The Snoqualmie Police Department responded and took an accident report.
SPD Captain Nick Almquist said via email that the morning storm hit Snoqualmie very fast, with the Public Works and Police Departments doing everything they could to get the roads plowed and passable. He added, “We did at one point close the Parkway to allow the plow trucks access to remove the snow and lay down the appropriate material to make the road safe again.”
Jennifer said she contacted the city to inquire as to future plans regarding this Jacobia Street/Swenson Drive area where this steep hill sits. She said she is concerned about this area at all times – not just during inclement weather – because of all the construction occurring and it being the main route to Timber Ridge from the large Eagle Pointe neighborhood.
Pulte Homes is currently working on two developments adjacent the hill – a townhome project along the hillside and single-family homes off Satterlee Street. She said large construction trucks frequently drive the area and that young kids walking alone to school often seem oblivious to them.
When asked if there are any future plans to close this hilly section during inclement weather, or possibly work with Pulte Homes to have the large construction vehicles avoid driving the area during Timber Ridge start and end times, City of Snoqualmie Public Information Officer Joan Pliego said they don’t currently have an answer, adding, “It’s something we’ll be talking about more.”
Jennifer and Monika said they hope by telling the community about their scary, snow near-miss, others will become more aware of potential hazards – not just when it’s snowing, but every school day when large construction trucks are using the heavily-traveled route from their neighborhood to Timber Ridge Elementary. They said they hope parents will have safety conversations about those trucks with kids who walk to school unsupervised.
The women said they just don’t want a horrible injury accident to have to occur to make people realize the potential hazards that exist in this area.