PASCO – Tears up in the eyes of a Pasco father Thursday as he recalled how a family spring break trip turned to a nightmare in an instant.
Just 24 hours earlier, the Parkers were on their way home from Seattle when they got caught in an avalanche on Interstate 90’s Snoqualmie Pass. Snow slammed into their SUV, covering them with ice and glass.
“We’re not religious people, but God must have just said, ‘It’s not your time to go,’ ” Randall “Kent” Parker said after his family was safely back home. “I don’t know how we survived it.”
Kent suffered cuts on his face and head, and across the top of his hands as they clenched the steering wheel when the windshield and sunroof shattered.
His daughters, Nicole, 7, and Arianna, 3, were strapped into their car seats and didn’t have a wound on them.
His wife, Roxanna, who goes by Tana, got the worst of it, suffering deep bruises and cuts to her upper chest from the impact of the heavy snow.
“We still have little bits of glass in our mouth and hair. I got all the pain on my chest from the snow (not the airbag). Thank goodness I didn’t have any broken ribs,” Tana said.
“The pain – it hurts so bad. But that’s nothing for this terrible accident. We were so blessed.”
The Parkers spent three days being tourists in Seattle and were near Keechelus Dam at the snowshed – the tunnel that covers the westbound lanes of I-90 – when the snow came crashing down.
“I just remember seeing it coming and I just remember the noise of something heavy,” Kent said. “The snow was like a log – very heavy, very wet. It came off the snowshed and it pounded us.”
Kent said he just tightened his grip on the steering wheel and slammed on the brakes. He said he must have closed his eyes as the impact knocked off his glasses, which he never found.
The family’s Nissan Pathfinder slid sideways, then smashed into the concrete retaining wall, moving it about 3 feet, he said.
As they slid along the highway, Tana said she thought they were dying.
“I really thought we weren’t going to make it,” she said.
The only thing Kent said he remembers is feeling the sensation of the car sliding and knowing something bad was happening, and the relief after of “being able to see your wife and kids and nobody’s dead.”
When the SUV finally stopped, they had traveled almost 50 yards and Kent said he looked back and just saw a pile of snow covering the highway and cars stopped on both sides.
“I remember looking afterward and (understanding) why the snowshed was there,” he said.
Two men ran through the snow and immediately started helping the Parkers. Kent said he had to dig himself out, shove his door open and get Arianna, who was sitting behind him. He then got Nicole and made sure both girls were safe.
One man, who said he was medically trained, provided first aid to Tana. She was having a hard time breathing, and he worried she might have broken ribs or other bones and didn’t want to move her.
She was covered in snow – there was even snow between her body and the seat. The man took off his coat, covered her and tried to keep her warm as they waited for the ambulance from Cle Elum.
“The guy who was behind us, he was like an angel, really,” Tana said. “I was all wet and shivering. I never felt so cold in my life.”
They were about 26 miles west of Cle Elum, and the ambulance had to go past them in the westbound lanes, turn around and work its way through the stopped eastbound traffic to reach them.
“Our little girls were so strong. There was very little crying after that violent crash,” Kent said.