Just before 7 a.m. Kristin Berry was driving eastbound near the 6500 block of Northeast Bothell Way in the left lane when she apparently lost control of her Mitsubishi Eclipse, according to Sgt. Cindi West, King County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman.
The car crossed the divider, slamming into a Mercedes SUV traveling westbound in the left lane, causing it to roll over and catch fire.
Northshore Fire Department personnel arrived about two minutes after the accident, one witness said, extinguished the flames and extricated the driver and a passenger.
Berry was pronounced dead at the scene. The two occupants of the SUV — a mother and her 15-year-old daughter from Bothell — were transported to Evergreen Medical Center in Kirkland with minor injuries and released later that afternoon, West said.
All westbound lanes were closed and one eastbound lane was open during the four-hour investigation, snarling rush-hour traffic on a busy roadway now popular to Eastside commuters looking to avoid the 520 bridge toll.
Westbound traffic was rerouted through Northeast 181st Street.
Jody Wellnitz, office manager at nearby Bendzak Orthodontics, witnessed the entire event while waiting to make a left turn from Bothell Way onto 65th Ave. NE.
“I was sitting in the turn lane and the white car was right in front of me,” she said. “I don’t even know why I was looking but I saw a the driver with long, dark hair lean over to the right as if she was looking for something. Next thing I know she was drifting left over the median. The car went up in the air and smashed into the left front panel of the gray SUV.
The SUV flipped into the air and she flipped the other way and there was all this smoke. The SUV rolled over and landed upside down and there was fire underneath it.”
Wellnitz said she turned, parked and called 911.
“In the meantime this young guy jumped out of his car and ran over to the car that was on fire, trying to get the people out. And then the aid car showed up.”
Wellnitz said traffic was not heavy and road conditions were fine.
“It was not snowing and the roads were OK. Nobody was going fast like they usually do here — I actually thought about that — and then bam, bam, bam ... fire and smoke and metal flying everywhere.”
She said it began snowing heavily moments after the accident.
“The whole thing was crazy and it happened in an instant,” she said.
“I feel terrible for the victim’s family — I don’t know why she leaned over to her right and looked down but she did. And I feel terrible for the people in the SUV because it wasn’t their fault at all. But that guy that ran to help was an absolute hero. Young kid, maybe 19 or 20 with a black ski cap driving a little black VW.
“That SUV was on fire and he ran right over there trying to get the driver out. I mean he just got right on it. It was amazing.”