A blaze that killed three firefighters in north-central Washington was voted the state’s top news story of 2015 by Associated Press member editors.
Other top news items of the past 12 months included the criminal indictment of Auditor Troy Kelley on money laundering and other charges, the fatal crash of a Ride the Ducks amphibious tour vehicle in Seattle, and the Seahawks’ heartbreaking Super Bowl loss.
Here are 2015’s Top Washington stories:
1. Deadly blaze: Three men perished in August after their vehicle crashed and was engulfed in flames in the Methow River Valley. Tom Zbyszewski, 20, Andrew Zajac, 26, and Richard Wheeler, 31, were fighting the Okanogan Complex wildfire in August, which burned about 470 square miles.
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2. Auditor Troy Kelley indicted: Kelley was indicted this year on charges of money laundering and possession of stolen money related to his prior operation of a real-estate services firm. Gov. Jay Inslee and other top officials have called for him to resign, but Kelley says he’s innocent. His trial is set for March.
3. Ride The Ducks crash: An outing for new international students at North Seattle College ended in tragedy when a bus they were on was struck Sept. 24 by an amphibious tour vehicle on the Aurora Bridge. Five students were killed. Authorities have been looking into whether an axle failure on the repurposed military “duck boat” caused the crash.
4. Supreme Court fines Legislature: In August, the state Supreme Court announced daily, $100,000 fines because justices say lawmakers have failed to adequately pay to educate the state’s 1 million school children and haven’t met the requirements of a court ruling. Lawmakers have allocated billions of dollars toward public schools, but critics say that’s not enough to meet the requirements in the state constitution that education be the Legislature’s “paramount duty.” The issue will likely dominate the 2016 legislative session.
5. Unarmed orchard worker fatally shot by Pasco police: Antonio Zambrano-Montes was fatally shot by three Pasco police officers in February, a killing captured on cellphone video that went viral. Authorities say the 35-year-old threw rocks at the officers near a busy intersection. In September, a local prosecutor said the officers would not be charged with any crimes.
6. Stunning Seahawks Super Bowl loss: Fans anticipating a thrilling, late fourth-quarter comeback were left dumbstruck when the Seahawks looked poised for a touchdown but opted for a pass play from the 1-yard line. Russell Wilson’s throw was picked off, and the New England Patriots hung on for a 28-24 victory in Super Bowl XLIX.
7. Chinese president visits state: Xi Jinping spoke to business leaders in Seattle and visited the Boeing production plant in Everett as part of his three-day swing through Washington state before he headed to the nation’s capital. A highlight of his stay was his appearance at Tacoma’s Lincoln High School, where he invited 100 students to visit China.
8. Parents Of Spokane civil rights leader reveal she posed as a black person: Rachel Dolezal resigned as president of the NAACP’s Spokane chapter in June after her parents said she was a white woman posing as African American. The furor touched off a fierce debate around the country over racial identity and divided the NAACP itself.
9. Yakima elects first Latinos to City Council: Three Hispanic women were elected to the Yakima City Council following a federal lawsuit. November’s election was the first since the ACLU sued the city under the Voting Rights Act, demanding that the community’s election system be changed to give Hispanics a better chance. Yakima, with about 90,000 residents, is about 40 percent Hispanic.
10. Chipotle restaurants close after dozens sickened: Chipotle temporarily closed 43 of its Pacific Northwest locations in the fall after a foodborne illness linked to its stores sickened many. The E. coli outbreak prompted renewed scrutiny of a company that touts its use of fresh ingredients and farm-sourced fare. Cases of the bacterial illness were traced to a handful of the casual Mexican food restaurants, but the company voluntarily closed down all of its locations in Washington and the Portland, Oregon, area as a precaution.