Suspected DUI driver arrested after crash, vehicle fire in Mount Baker Tunnel

SEATTLE — A driver is in custody for suspected impairment after a single-car crash and vehicle fire shut down westbound Interstate 90 at Island Crest Way for hours Sunday afternoon.

According to Washington State Patrol (WSP), a driver was westbound on I-90 when he crashed his car into the sidewall of the Mount Baker Tunnel in Seattle around 4:30 Sunday afternoon.

Moments after the crash, a passing driver stopped near the collision, ran to the crashed vehicle and pulled the driver out. Both people could be seen running from the crashed car.

The car caught fire, which triggered the emergency response system inside the tunnel. When activated, fire retardant foam is sprayed to saturate the tunnel and large fans turn on, pushing smoke out of the tunnel.

When emergency crews arrived, the tunnel was covered in foam retardant and the car was still fully engulfed in flames.

WSP said crews were able to extinguish the flames quickly. However, the retardant took hours to clean up.

“It wasn’t the collision, necessarily, it was really cleaning up the fire retardant and making sure the road was safe to travel on,” Trooper Johnson said. “We had to have Department of Ecology come and make sure there was no issues with the foam going into drains.”

The collision and subsequent cleanup required a more-than-three-hour closure of the tunnel.

WSP diverted traffic onto an on-ramp near Mercer Street until it could reopen one lane inside the tunnel around 7:30 p.m..

Around 8:40 p.m., the Washington State Department of Transportation tweeted that crews had reopened I-90 and traffic through the tunnel had resumed.

According to WSP, the driver left the scene of the crash before first responders arrived. He was seen on a DOT camera walking out of the tunnel toward Rainier.

“The driver’s father called us, and we ended up on Swedish on Cherry Hill and subsequently placed the driver in custody for suspected impairment,” said WSP Trooper Rick Johnson.

As of Sunday night, WSP did not have an update on the driver’s condition but said he was in trooper custody at Swedish Medical Center where he was receiving care.

According to WSP, a DOT worker and a trooper were also sent to the hospital due to chemical exposure — they are expected to be OK.

The crash is under investigation.