Six people are dead, another fighting to survive after a devastating crash in Tacoma

This browser does not support the video element.

TACOMA, Wash. — Six people are dead after their car collided with an SUV in the Tacoma tideflats Sunday.

It happened on Alexander Avenue and State Route 509. The Washington State Patrol said six people who rode in one car died at the scene. That car is a 2021 KIA Forte hatchback. It collided with a BMW SUV shortly after 11 a.m. Sunday.

Now investigators are trying to determine why the vehicles crashed.

The victims were in a vehicle built for five people. And what troopers don’t know is if any of them were wearing a seatbelt.

It took investigators more than five hours to clear the scene for traffic to be allowed through after the terrible crash.

It was a scene so devastating, out of respect for the family, we did not show the white sheets where the victims lay. Five of them were placed near the KIA they were once in. In all, seven people were in the KIA as it drove southbound on Alexander Avenue East.

“It is a five-seater car,” said Washington State Patrol Trooper Datillo. “So, there were five available seat belts. We don’t know of any seat belt usage at this point. We haven’t been able to confirm that.”

Datillo says the KIA and a white BMW SUV with two people inside met in a violent collision in the intersection.

The State Patrol is still investigating, but early indications are that one of the drivers may have been driving too fast and may have run a red light.

Michael May was on his way to work when he saw the aftermath. He meant to text his boss he’d be late but accidentally took a short video of the crash at the SR 509 and Alexander Avenue intersection.

“I don’t even know if there’s anything that could have been done for those people because it was horrible. It was horrible,” said May, who drove up to the wreckage shortly after the two cars, holding nine people between them, crashed.

May said he saw the flames. He and other witnesses tried to do whatever they could to help the people inside the overturned KIA.

“We heard something in there and we wanted to get him out. It was horrible,” May said. “It was so mangled in there I noticed that the lady in the front, her hair kept catching on fire. That was our first concern was stopping the fire. It had gone around to the back and there was the worry the gas tank was going to explode.”

Mike and another person grabbed a fire extinguisher from a nearby semi-truck to try and put out the flames.

“It was hot. My shoes have some holes in them from the embers. It seems like forever when you’re waiting for someone to come and help you,” said May.

He started to record again when police and fire arrived. Tacoma firefighters had to cut off the KIA’s roof to get to the people inside. Six of those seven would tragically die in the intersection. Washington State Patrol released some information about the six victims. Most are from Arizona and between 19 and 25 years old. Three are men and three are women. Officials only named the person taken to St. Joseph’s Medical Center in critical condition, 21-year-old Anthony Pena from Phoenix.

Washington State Patrol did name the people in the BMW SUV. Someone close to the couple said they were on their way to church when the crash happened. They’re a husband and wife in their 40s.

May didn’t learn that the people he tried to save didn’t make it until later into his work shift.

“I burst into tears at my job. I had to walk off the floor,” said May. “The only thing I could think of is whoever’s family is in that car is just going to be a huge windfall of nothingness for a long, long time. It’s going to be horrible.”

Tacoma Fire told us they had to take off the roof to get to those inside the KIA. Two passengers who were still alive were taken to local hospitals, but one later died.

About two hours after the accident, someone who appeared distraught came to the scene asking about his wife. Troopers would not let him go over to the vehicles.

“We don’t like to respond to scenes where people are deceased,” Datillo said.

The pain of this tragedy is not lost on them.

“But we understand that we have a job to do to support the families that are involved,” he said. “Because we want to make sure we do a thorough and complete report for them so that they know and understand why it is that a family member of theirs is deceased today.”

Such a sad thing for these families to be going through. We do know at least one driver survived.

If you would like to help, Cerra Corner has a GoFundMe, you can find it here.

Washington State Patrol also asks anyone who saw the crash, especially anyone with dashcam footage, to contact Detective Michael Pry at 360-827-1401.