Multi-car Collision on Park Street Leaves Community Shaken, Unharmed

Andy Monserud

A driver, apparently impaired by a medical emergency, struck 11 cars and indirectly damaged a bicycle on Palouse Street, Alder Street and Boyer Avenue last Friday afternoon, April 4.

All injuries, including the bicyclist’s, were minor, but many of the vehicles involved sustained heavy damage.

Photo by Marra Clay

According to the police report, the driver, George Fry, struck the first car from behind while going south on Palouse. He then backed up and struck it again. The driver of the struck vehicle attempted to escape Fry by driving east on Alder and then north on Park, but Fry followed, striking several parked cars along Park.

The bicyclist was between two parked cars when Fry struck the rear car, pushing it and the bicycle into the car in front. Fry continued up Park until a collision with a pickup truck forced him to a stop. He then exited his truck, a red Silverado, and collapsed on the ground. Paramedics transported him to a local medical facility shortly thereafter.

The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin reported that Fry had low blood sugar during the incident, which may have caused the crashes. Fry claimed to have no memory of the crashes.

The police estimated that all the cars involved surpassed the department’s $750 threshold for damage reporting, though many vehicles do not have exact individual estimates yet. Senior Frannie Nunn’s car was parked on Park near Sherwood Athletic Center when Fry struck it and pushed it onto the curb. Her insurance company agreed that the car is now effectively useless and will reimburse her about $10,000 for the damages. While the insurance money helps, Nunn is still frustrated with the situation.

“Even though I’m getting this reimbursement, it’s still caused an inconvenience, and it’s nothing like still having my car,” Nunn said in an e-mail. “We bought the car just over a year ago, and it’s frustrating to no longer have the independence and reassurance of having a car on campus.”

Several Whitman community members arrived almost instantly on the scene to help. Whitman security took charge and cleared the scene for police officers, then directed traffic and aided police officers as necessary.

“I spoke to one of the victims’ parents … and he wanted to thank the Whitman community for how great they were,” said Director of Security Matt Stroe. “They were really thankful for everything that students, staff and faculty did after that accident.”

Photo by Marra Clay
Photo by Marra Clay

Despite the relatively bloodless nature of the accident, it shocked many community members. Nunn expressed her own alarm upon seeing the scene.

“I had actually just parked there to go turn in a homework assignment in Harper Joy,” she said. “To come out ten minutes later and see my car (along with ten others) completely wrecked and a man unconscious on the ground was shocking and, frankly, just bad luck.”

Jarring as the crashes were, they could have been much worse. Walla Walla Police Officer Gunner Fumer cites the fortunate timing of the accident in preventing a tragedy.

“It could have been a disastrous deal,” said Fumer. “Had the kids been out of class and walking around campus … it could have been a completely different story. I’m very glad that the timing was not too bad.”+