Second family says person killed in crash wasn't promptly found - KPTV - FOX 12

Second family says person killed in crash wasn't promptly found by Washington troopers

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Steven Krieger (Family photo/KPTV) Steven Krieger (Family photo/KPTV)
VANCOUVER, WA (KPTV) -

A Battle Ground mother wants to see Washington State Patrol make serious policy changes after a deadly crash similar to one that claimed the life of her son.

Steven Krieger, 24, was a volunteer firefighter and an EMT who got his passion for lifesaving medicine after entering the Army at the age of 17.

But the circumstances surrounding his death will always haunt his mother, Rachel Broersma, who wonders if something more could have been done to save his life.

It was early the morning of June 1 when Krieger was in a crash along westbound SR-14 near the border between Vancouver and Camas. His wrecked car was found immediately, but he wasn’t in it.

Broersma and her family didn’t know anything was wrong until he didn’t show up for work that night. They started making phone calls and learned his car had been impounded. Staff there told them where the car had been picked up.

His family went out to the highway to look for Krieger themselves.

“The troopers came out there while we were out there and they said it was dangerous for us to be looking and they took us back to an office,” Broersma told FOX 12. “Then they decided to go look for him and they found him within half an hour, 10 feet from the road. He’d been ejected.”

Krieger’s body was found off the eastbound lanes of SR-14 – across the highway from his collision – 19 hours after the crash.

In an email a few weeks later, Washington State Patrol Captain James Riley wrote to Broersma expressing concern and condolences over the loss of her son. In part, his email read, “You are correct in your feelings that the Washington State Patrol could have done things differently which may have made a difference. Several times I have spoken with members of our district… where we critically reviewed our actions, lack of action and where we could have done better.”

Then last week, a similar thing happened to another family.

Travis Williams was killed in a motorcycle crash along SR-14 near I-5 in Vancouver. But responding troopers only found minor damage to his motorcycle and no evidence of a crash or injured driver.

It was Williams’ own family who went out looking for him three days later who found his body.

“This shouldn’t have happened again,” Broersma said. “[WSP] told me they were changing their procedures and stuff, I got an email from them that they were really on top of it, so it just sparked it again when I saw this. I couldn’t believe it happened again to another family.”

A spokesperson for Washington State Patrol told Fox 12 both crashes are tragedies and are being taken very seriously, but they happened under very different circumstances.

In Krieger’s case, WSP reports troopers did look for him and even called in firefighters with FLIR thermal-imaging cameras to help in the search. Sadly – perhaps because he was thrown to the opposite side of the divided highway – they didn’t find him. At that point, his wrecked car was considered an “abandoned collision” and was impounded.

After his body was found, WSP said internal conversations were had about how they could have done better and ways to improve when it comes to crash response.

But in Williams’ case, WSP said there was nothing at the scene to suggest a crash had even happened. Without evidence, there wasn’t reason to call in aid like FLIR cameras.

In light of both of these deaths, WSP reports the agencies are making changes.

Supervisors from all over the district met Wednesday along with command staff from Olympia. A committee will be formed with partner agencies to determine deficiencies, better ways to respond to crash scenes and how to improve communication – both between law enforcement and with victim’s families.

“This can’t happen anymore, it just can’t happen to these families,” Broersma said in tears. “It’s traumatic and things need to change.”

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