Driver sought who fled crash

Driver sought who fled crash The Washington State Patrol is searching for an unidentified driver who fled the scene of a crash that critically injured an Olympia man early Sunday.

Troopers have arrested two men who they say helped the suspect flee. They are identified as Bryan R. Kernodle, 30, of Olympia, and Ryan E. Searl, 24, of Tumwater. Both were arrested on suspicion of aiding and abetting a hit-and-run were set to be released Monday night from the Thurston County Jail on personal recognizance, a jail spokesman said.

The man who was hurt, John S. Salzer, 26, was in critical condition Monday at Providence St. Peter Hospital, said Trooper Brandy Kessler, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Patrol. She wrote in a news release that the crash left Salzer near death.

On Oct. 4, 2007, Salzer was behind the wheel of a Toyota pickup that left Yelm Highway and struck a tree head-on. Troopers discovered open and unopened beer cans in the vehicle. Blood drawn at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle showed his blood alcohol content was above the legal limit and that he had marijuana in his system, according to an affidavit a prosecutor filed in connection with the criminal case.

A passenger in his vehicle was hospitalized for 19 days. The passenger later told police he and Salzer had been drinking while Salzer played in a pool tournament.

Salzer pleaded guilty to vehicular assault, a felony, and was sentenced to five months in jail. He qualified for work release.

In Sunday’s crash, Salzer was the passenger in a 1998 Mercedes that was southbound on Wiggins Road when it went off the road shortly after 2 a.m. at 43rd Avenue Southeast, Kessler said.

The car crashed through a chain-link fence and struck a tree. Troopers are investigating why the Mercedes left the road.

Gary Brucker, who lives in the area, said he heard a “double bang.”

“I’m a block away from 43rd, and I heard it just as clear as a bell, loud,” he said.

The driver of the Mercedes got into a silver-colored 2001 Dodge pickup that had been trailing with its lights off, Kessler said. Kernodle was driving the pickup.

Troopers tracked the pickup heading north on Interstate 5 in Pierce County.

The two passengers in the pickup dropped off the suspect at an unknown location before they were arrested, Kessler said. She said troopers were investigating possible leads into the suspect’s identity.

Court records show Searl has had numerous run-ins with law enforcement. He was sentenced to 11 months in jail in 2007 for a drug-possession charge.

Kernodle’s ex-wife has secured a protection order against him. In May, a judge revoked visitation rights for his three children after he failed to appear for drug testing, court records show.

Anyone with information about the crash is asked to call the Washington State Patrol dispatch center at 360-586-1999.

Christian Hill: 360-754-5427