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Fiery crash causes $10,000 damage to building
The sidewalk was still slippery on the corner facing the Mercer Island Dentistry Building last week. The building was the end point of a high speed chase that began in the eastbound express lanes in the I-90 tunnel just before midnight on Friday, Nov. 8.
The speeding luxury sport vehicle hit the building after it exited I-90 onto Island Crest Way. It then caught fire.
A few days later, the sidewalk in front of the building was still coated with a fine sheen of oil and a wide swath of yellow fire retardant was evident in the street. Sharp metal pieces of the car were still scattered about. A large piece of plywood covered the building from the corner, placed there after a call to a business via 1-800-Boardup.
The driver of the car, a 47-year-old Bellevue man is facing possible vehicular assault and drunk driving charges following a high-speed pursuit by a Washington State Patrol trooper on the I-90 bridge Friday night that ended in the fiery crash at the medical office on the Island.
Trooper Chris Webb, Public Information Officer for the Washington State Patrol said that a WSP trooper on the I-90 bridge clocked Peter E. Kern traveling eastbound in the express lanes at 150 mph in his 2013 Porsche Panamera. The trooper began pursuit around 11:30 p.m.
Kern was observed exiting onto Island Crest Way on Mercer Island where he lost control of his vehicle while possibly trying to turn left onto S.E. 30th Street. There he struck a street sign and then the corner of Mercer Park Dentistry building owned by Islander, Clyde Curfew.
The Porsche caught fire, but Kern and his female passenger, a 36-year-old Issaquah woman, were able to get out. They had minor injuries. They remained on scene, according to WSP, and were taken to Overlake Medical Center.
The state trooper and Mercer Island Fire Department kept the fire from spreading to the building with the assistance of firefighters from Bellevue.
Kern is facing DUI, reckless driving and vehicular assault charges, which Trooper Chris Webb said is due to the injuries sustained by the passenger. The Bellevue man is the confirmed owner of the luxury car which Webb said are marketed at $75,000 to $175,000.
The bright red car was first observed Eastbound on I-90 in the Mt. Baker Tunnel where the trooper’s radar registered its speed. The Porsche was already at the East end of the floating bridge when the trooper activated his emergency lights.
The trooper did not match the speed of the Porsche, Webb said. “Our patrol cars have governors, which are devices that won’t allow the vehicle to go beyond a certain speed.”
It appeared that the trooper briefly lost sight of the Porsche in the Lid but then observed the vehicle exit onto Island Crest Way. It appeared that the Porsche did not slow down until entering the curve in the Lid. WSP is in the process of preparing a speed estimate but that will be in the final report, Webb said.
“Fortunately, the traffic was light,” Webb said. He believed that the trooper only passed one other vehicle before exiting to Island Crest Way.
The trooper followed the car, onto Island Crest Way then came upon the crash scene.
The vehicle was smoldering when the trooper arrived, just seconds after the collision. After getting the passenger and driver away from the vehicle, the trooper got out the fire extinguisher from his own car to tamp down the flames. He was soon joined by Battalion Chief Les Kenworthy from Station 91.
However, a few minutes later the fire erupted and the car was engulfed in flames coming from the engine compartment. But by that time fire trucks from both Mercer Island and Bellevue had arrived.
Calls had already gone to for regional fire and emergency assistance. According to Mercer Island Deputy Fire Chief, Steve Heitman, both Station 91 on the North-End of the Island and Station 92 on the South-End, were out responding to calls about flooding.
At the same time, Battalion Chief Kenworthy, still on duty at Station 91 and took the command vehicle and drove to the crash, took out a fire extinguisher to help the trooper put out the flames.
Units from Bellevue were automatically dispatched to assist. Station 92 immediately changed their status and arrived at the scene at 11:41 within four minutes of the initial call. A unit from Bellevue was on the scene by 12:03 a.m.
Heitman said that he does not doubt that the initial actions of the trooper and Kenworthy kept the car fire from spreading to the building.
A video from the WSP vehicle shows that the driver had an obvious leg or ankle injury as he was limping significantly. The passenger appeared shaken but fine; as it turned-out she had more significant injuries, Webb said.
The trooper was eventually contacted by at least three other troopers and a supervisor who arrived at the crash site. It took several hours of investigation before they were all clear of the scene.
David Omli, who owns a restoration and construction business in Seattle received a call from the Mercer Island Fire Department at 2 a.m., via 1-800-Boardup. Omli sent out a crew who secured the building and placed the board over the damage.
Omli said that the damage to the exterior wall, windows, interior finishes and minor structural damage is estimated at $10,000.
The suspect admitted to drinking alcohol and the trooper’s observations confirmed that the driver was likely DUI. He was booked into KC Jail. Dan Donohoe of the King County Prosecutor’s office, said that charges are still pending.