Three injured when teen loses control of vehicle on the Astoria BridgeA 16-year-old Astoria High School student died Tuesday afternoon when she lost control of the car she was driving and crashed into a Pacific County Transit bus on the Astoria Bridge.
Llasmin Dircio Gatica was thrown from her Honda Civic, which split in half with the force of the impact. The accident caused the bridge to be closed for several hours.
The wreck happened on the Oregon side, about halfway through the flat section of the bridge. The driver, Dircio Gatica, did not have a valid driver's license and may not have been wearing a seat belt, Oregon State Police said.
Three passengers in the car were injured, one seriously, and the bridge was closed to traffic for more than three hours. No one on the bus was hurt.
OSP Lt. Gregg Hastings said Dircio Gatica was headed toward Washington in a 1991 Honda Civic two-door at about 4:35 p.m., when the car veered into the guardrail for an unknown reason, then crossed the centerline and crashed nearly head-on into the oncoming bus.
The main portions of the vehicle came to rest about 100 yards apart.
The victim's mother, Natividad Gatica Ortega, 41, of Astoria, was airlifted to Legacy Emanuel Hospital in Portland with serious injuries. She had been sitting in the right front seat and was wearing a seat belt. Her condition today was described as serious.
Two passengers in the back seat, both believed to have been using seat belts, were taken to Columbia Memorial Hospital. Juan Domingo Pichardo, 33, was admitted to CMH and is in good condition today. Luis Fernando Miranda Villa, 16, was transferred to Legacy Emanuel Hospital. His condition today is fair.
The bus came to a stop about 100 yards south of the area of impact. It was badly damaged, but the driver, Gary Paul Toivonen, 55, of Ocean Park, Wash., who had been wearing a seat belt, and his two passengers were not injured.
Dircio Gatica was a sophomore at Astoria High School and was on the swim team. Counselor Marilynn Knowlson called her a "sweet and delightful" young person.
Principal Larry Lockett said she was well-liked and had many friends, especially in the English Language Learners program. He said Dircio Gatica's English was improving daily, and she was making "great strides."
A safe room has been set up in the library so students can meet with counselors.
"It's a very sad feeling in the building, but we'll support our kids," Knowlson said.
Members of the Oregon State Police Astoria Area Command responded to the accident and are heading up the investigation. The Astoria Police Department and Washington State Patrol also responded. Other agencies also helped, including the Astoria Fire Department, which sent two fire engines and seven firefighters; the Chinook (Wash.) Fire Department, which sent a fire engine and two firefighters; the Warrenton Fire Department, which provided back-up; and Pacific County (Wash.) Fire District 1, which sent an ambulance and a fire engine.
The Oregon Department of Transportation's Emergency Response Team coordinated traffic control. The bridge was completely closed to traffic for about four hours.